Bill Burton, associate director of the United States Geological Survey’s volcano hazards program, said the current eruption under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier bore similarities to the last eruption there, in 1821. “We seem to be reprising that episode again,” he said.
That eruption continued, on and off, until 1823. While no one can predict how long this one may last, Dr. Burton said, in volcanology, “The past is the key to the present.”
He added, “So if the other eruption lasted for two years, this one might as well.”Ongoing coverage here : Views of Volcanic Ash Plume Over Europe - The Lede Blog - NYTimes.com
Hopefully, we'll stick with a small eruption
Laki - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The system erupted over an 8 month period during 1783-1784 from the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano, pouring out an estimated 14 km3 (3.4 cu mi) of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid/sulfur-dioxide compounds that killed over 50% of Iceland's livestock population, leading to famine which killed approximately 25% of the population.
The meteorological impact of Laki resonated on, contributing significantly to several years of extreme weather in Europe. In France a sequence of extremes included a surplus harvest in 1785 that caused poverty for rural workers, accompanied by droughts and bad winters and summers, including a violent hailstorm in 1788 that destroyed crops. This in turn contributed significantly to the build up of poverty and famine that may have contributed to the French Revolution in 1789. Laki was only a factor in a decade of climatic disruption, as Grímsvötn was erupting from 1783–1785 and a recent study of El Niño patterns also suggests an unusually strong El-Niño effect from 1789-93.
Comment on the Economist coverage :
Don't mess with those Nordic folk
"Iceland strikes back. Anyone who has seen the movie "Direktoren for det hele" by the danish director Lars von Trier nows that it is not advisable to upset a person from Iceland. As he the director himself found out, it does not matter that you are the director, you do not tell a person from Iceland (Bjork in Dancer in the dark) how to act, no matter that she has never acted before, she will not accept directions and she will never again expose herself to anything of the sort that means she will be told what to do. Unfortunately, the governments of Britain and Holland did not realise that and insisted that Iceland should repay their debts and do it now. If you think that the people of Iceland did not have anything to do with the vulcano errupting right now, you are kidding yourself."