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Fire and ice: Papua New Guinea and Iceland volcanoes display striking contrast (PHOTOS)

Volcanoes in Iceland and Papua New Guinea erupted nearly simultaneously Thursday night but at practically opposite ends of the world. And their surroundings could not be more different.

Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano system sits beneath a glacier. Over 8,000 miles away, Papua New Guinea’s Rabaul volcano on Mount Tavurvur  soars above palm trees in the heart of the tropics, near the equator.

While half a world apart, both volcanoes have raised fears of air travel disruptions – as ash can be ingested into aircraft engines.

After a flare-up at Bardarbunga last night, Iceland raise its aviation alert from orange to red, the highest level.  But today, the alert level was downgraded back to orange, the second highest level, as lava flow ceased.

“Aerial observations by the Icelandic Coastguard show that only steam is rising from the site of the lava eruption,” reports the Iceland Met Office.

The Met Office says “it is unclear how the situation will develop” but that additional eruptions are possible.

As a result of the Papua New Guinea eruption, some international flights to and from Australia were rerouted or diverted due to the ash lofted high into the sky.

“The volcano spewed a thick tower of ash that reached as high as 60,000 feet above sea level,” says CNN.

Below are stunning photos and videos from the two volcanoes…

Rabaul – Mount Tavurvur