In 2009, my wife, son, and I went hiking on the glacier covering Eyjafjallajokull—the Icelandic volcano that recently blew its top, shutting down transatlantic and European airline travel. Little did we imagine. And that's the problem. Little did anyone imagine.
When transoceanic travel was limited to the high seas, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull didn't matter. Today it does. As a result of the volcano, more than 100,000 airline flights were canceled over the course of a week, costing the financially hurting airline industry more than $1.7 billion, according to reports. As of this writing, some airports in the U.K. and Ireland are closed due to the latest ash cloud.
The ripple effects were significant as well. Almost a million air travelers were left wilting at airports, as were millions of dollars worth of fresh produce bound for Europe and the U.S. In Kenya alone, according to news reports, some 10 million flowers, mostly roses, had to be discarded.
And what if the volcano, after a brief respite, cranks up the ash again? This is not an unprecedented event. When it last erupted, in 1821, it continued to rumble for another two years. And a neighboring, much bigger volcano—Katla—has historically erupted soon after Eyjafjallajokull. As Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, Iceland's president, put it last month: "What we have seen now is a small rehearsal of what would happen—I don't say if but I say when—Katla will erupt."