The Eyjafjöll AD 2010 eruption is an extraordinary event in that it led to widespread and unprecedented disruption to air travel over Europe – a region generally considered to be free from the hazards associated with volcanic eruptions. Following the onset of the eruption, satellite imagery demonstrated the rapid transportation of ash by westerly winds over mainland Europe, eventually expanding to large swathes of the North Atlantic Ocean and the eastern seaboard of Canada. This small-to-intermediate size eruption and the dispersal pattern observed are not particularly unusual for Icelandic eruptions within a longer-term perspective. Indeed, the Eyjafjöll eruption is a relatively modest eruption in comparison to some of the 20 most voluminous eruptions that have deposited cryptotephra in sedimentary archives in mainland Europe, such as the mid Younger Dryas Vedde Ash and the mid Holocene Hekla 4 tephra. The 2010 eruption, however, highlights the critical role that weather patterns play in the distribution of a relatively small amount of ash and also highlights the spatially complex dispersal trajectories of tephra in the atmosphere. Whether or not the preservation of the Eyjafjöll 2010 tephra in European proxy archives will correspond to the extensive distributions mapped in the atmosphere remains to be seen. The Eyjafjöll 2010 event highlights our increased vulnerability to natural hazards rather than the unparalleled explosivity of the event. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.