CORRECTION & APOLOGY: Planes or Volcano?

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

We got our figures wrong on the CO2 emissions of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull. Badly wrong.

So we want to apologise.

We pride ourselves on good data and solid information. Despite detailed research and feedback from Icelandic vulcanologists, our figures were out by a magnitude of ten.

The volcano is emitting 150,000 tons of CO2 per day, not 15,000 tons. (source)

The post was always intended as an open question. Our hope was to get the information refined and corrected. Naively, we didn’t expect the graphic to go super-viral.

We’re sorry for any confusion, annoyance and distrust this error may have caused.

We’ll do better next time.


p.s. Thanks for our great commenters and community for feeding back and correcting us.

Here’s the corrected visual:

Planes vs Volcano? What's emitting the most CO2

Here’s the data:
And the original post:

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Show Comments ( )

  • Gary Myers

    You should be commended for your correction and apolgy about the wrong statistics concerning the CO2 emissions of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull. The honest admission of a mistake and transparency within social media is refreshing change from the often lack of transparency and needed retractions of some blatant mistakes made by the news media.

    It’s no wonder Information is Beautiful remains within the top 100 of Bloglines. Always a pleasure to read the information you provide.

  • merygrace

    Al Gore cutting down on his air travel would make a bigger impact – the hypocrisy of it all!

  • Christian Guthier

    Thought I’d put things into a better perspective, using your data source. ;-)

  • hemnebob

    i LOVE this site.
    this is what it is all about, sharing of information.
    i have to hope that it is all on the level and sincere, if not, it is still an
    incredible amount of work and effort and shall be one of my favorite escapes!!

  • Kimono

    I agree with Gary Myers. Information is Beautiful is still one of my favourite websites and it’s refreshing to see the imagery in my rss feeds, facebook and twitter streams. We all make mistakes and I sure wouldn’t want to be that guy trying to calculate these statistics… But still, you’ve gotten a great point across about mother nature versus human condition.

  • andrea

    yes but the CO2 saved figures need to be updated; according to my calculations it is “only” 116 tons saved (344-150)* 60% = 116.

  • Jonas

    Great diagram! I suggest you make also a diagram that shows how much humanity will re-structure and re-engineer how matter and energy will work under humanity’s control for the benefit of humanity in 50 years from now (as a result of the creation of intelligent nano-robots, and stuff like that, during 2010-2060), given that Moore’s law continues to hold for another 50 years from now – and how much this change will influence the future of humanity, long term – and compare this to how tiny impact the volcano Eyjafjallajökull has on that same time period.

  • Carlos maq

    Great site, and airplanes are more dangerous than vulcanos…

  • sumvision cyclone

    Therefore, it takes 32 days for the volcano emit the same amount of CO2 than two weeks of travel by air.

  • Website

    I have personally sufferede from this volcano erruption.
    And it’s a pleasure to read the truth and really see that Information is Beautiful!

  • Rich

    But you didn’t include the figures of how many travellers were on the aeroplanes versus those on the volcano. Surely that has to be taken into consideration when comparing the benefits or lack thereof of the two?

  • Electric Razor

    Very interesting information, imagine if there were no canceled flights.

  • Ryan

    The second version of the graph is more correct, 3,000 metric tons of SO2 were released in per day, made by measurements as described here:

    This which would lead to 15,000 metric tons and not 150,000 metric tons as cited in the AFP story. The source quoted by the AFP used a very rough estimation based on a previous eruption, and did not use measurements gathered during the event. For the purposes of this chart the estimation should probably not be considered more accurate than the direct measurements as linked above.