A huge eruption from a volcano called Bárðarbunga, located in Iceland that took place in August 2014 until February this year, it’s three times more toxic than all the European industry, says a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

This was a truly spectacular eruption — the biggest in Iceland for more than 200 years, said Anja Schmidt, author of the study from the University of Leeds, to WIRED. At least 120,000 tons of sulphur dioxide gas were released per day.

Respiratory issues and acid rain are direct consequences of the expelling of sulphur dioxide gas, and it could lead to an approximate of 100,000 people dying from air pollution. Schools were closed, outdoor sports were canceled and people was warned to stay inside by the Icelandic authorities.

Lava near Bárðarbunga on September 1st. Credit Photograph by Eggert johannesson/AP

With the UK air quality being affected by the eruption in the near future, scientists from the University of Leeds and the University of Edinburgh, with the aid of researchers from the Met Office, analyzed data from satellite sensors to track the pollution caused by the eruption. Thanks to advanced computer simulators, they were able to reproduce the spreading gas cloud.

According to WIRED, the team says that “the overall effects of toxic gases from volcanic eruptions are hard to monitor. During the Bardarbunga volcano no tracking system was available, and the remote location and the weather conditions meant experts were unable to solve the issue in real time.”

What comes after the eruption

The level of sulphur dioxide gas produced by human activity have been steady for the past 25 years, but the mass eruption of the Icelandic surely will raise the numbers to an alarming rate. Scientists hope to be ready next time, improving their system to keep track of the pollution caused by the eruption so they can solve it while it’s happening.

“Although the eruption broke the record, experts say that it could be worse, remembering the 1783 eruption of Laki, 10 times as violent as this. “It killed three quarters of the sheep and cattle [in Iceland],” said John Stevenson from the University of Edinburgh to WIRED. This time, scientists hope to reduce the consequences within 20 years, when the volcano is expected to erupt again.

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research