Press release

The UK and Iceland sign an agreement to share information on volcanic eruptions

The agreement follows considerable cooperation between researchers from the 2 countries since the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Acting on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the UK Ambassador to Iceland, Ian Whitting, and Magnus Johannesson, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for the Environment in Iceland, today (15 December 2010) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) covering the exchange of information and resources relating to volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

The MOU follows considerable cooperation between researchers from the 2 countries since the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in April 2010. Members of the Met Office, British Geological Survey and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science visited Iceland during the eruption to share data and expertise with Icelandic researchers.

Information from the Icelandic Met Office and the Icelandic Institute of Earth Sciences proved extremely useful to the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), chaired by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington. This group was composed of experts in earth and atmospheric sciences, meteorology and risk analysis, and advised the government on scientific issues related to the eruption and the disruption it caused.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

The expertise of the researchers in Iceland and the talent and resources of our own scientists here in UK will each benefit from increased cooperation. I welcome this signing, and hope that it leads to further collaboration, of benefit to both countries.

Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington said:

Scientific cooperation is key to addressing many of the challenges we face today, including climate change and low carbon energy production. The eruption in Eyjafjallajokull showed just how important this was, and I was extremely impressed by the way in which researchers from the UK and Iceland worked together. With further eruptions in Iceland a real possibility, this MOU will ensure that we have access to the best evidence available to help the UK prepare.

Professor Alan Thorpe, Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council said:

The paralysis of UK and European air traffic as a result of the volcanic ash plume earlier this year was unprecedented. The environmental and health risks were uncertain. Collaboration is vital if we are to ensure an efficient, coordinated response to such emergencies in the future so this formal understanding between our 2 countries can only be beneficial, to the research communities, to industries and to governments.

Professor Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist, said:

Met Office volcanic ash advisories, based on our world leading weather forecasting and dispersion modelling, rely on accurate and timely information from the Icelandic Meteorological Office on the characteristics of any volcanic eruption. This memorandum of understanding between the UK and Iceland will support the strong working relationship that already exists between the countries 2 Met offices. This will enable us to give even more accurate predictions of the location and concentration of any ash, guiding the aviation regulator.

David Lidington, Minister for Europe said:

I am delighted that the UK and Iceland have signed this memorandum of understanding. As we saw last April, events in Iceland can affect the whole of Europe. I hope that this memorandum will lead to continued close co-operation between scientists from both the UK and Iceland to work on a range of important issues.

The memorandum signing ceremony took place in Reykjavik, Iceland attended by Ian Whitting, the UK Ambassador to Iceland, and Magnus Johannesson, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for the Environment, Iceland.

Published 15 December 2010