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The Environment Agency of Iceland (EA) monitors air quality in Iceland. During a volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull, South-Iceland, which lasted for a few weeks, volcanic ash spread over the surrounding area. On windy days this ash is resubmitted to the air and as a result, particulate matter (PM10) concentration levels have been unusually high in the neighbourhood of the volcano. The EA currently monitors the air quality at three locations, Vík in Mýrdalur, Raufarfell and Hvolsvöllur (see map) and the actual levels can be observed on the web-site.

Svifryksmælistöðvar á suðurlandi

Due to the fact that it is impossible to monitor PM10 levels everywhere and the frequently asked questions such as “How is it possible to estimate PM10 levels visually?” and “What other means, other than measurements, can be used to estimate PM10 levels?” the EA has composed a short video using photos from Hvolsvöllur taken at different PM10 concentrations. The aim of this video is to compare visibility at different PM10 concentrations and should only be used as a guideline to help evaluate PM10 concentrations. The given examples do not apply for every situation.

To estimate visibility it is convenient to use objects in different distances such as houses, hills, mountains, light poles etc. Object visibility can though vary due to different factors e.g. the colour of the object, texture, height, altitude and more and it is important to mention that the human eye sees differently than a camera lens.

Here you can see the video.


The photos were provided by Mila ehf. and compiled by the Environment Agency of Iceland.