Video: Airlines warned as ash cloud darkens Iceland again
Published 23/05/2011 | 05:00
AN erupting Icelandic volcano sent a plume of smoke and ash 12 miles into the atmosphere yesterday and the cloud is expected to reach Europe by tomorrow, airlines have been warned.
The ash could force the authorities to close airports and airspace, disrupting thousands of passengers almost exactly a year after a different Icelandic volcano closed airspace across Europe.
The latest warning is based on five-day weather forecasts but experts said the wind patterns were changeable and could yet sweep the cloud away from Ireland and Britain.
Aviation authorities said no disruption was expected to European or transatlantic airspace during the next 24 hours.
But forecasters said if the eruption continued at the same rate and winds did not change, ash could reach northern Scotland by tomorrow and spread to England, France and even Spain by Thursday or Friday.
"Due to the predicted direction of the winds over the coming days no closure of Irish or European airspace is anticipated at this time," the Irish Aviation Authority said yesterday. Grimsvotn, Iceland's most active volcano at the heart of its biggest glacier, began erupting late on Saturday. So much ash was blasted into the sky that it blocked out the sun and covered nearby villages and farms.
By yesterday, the ash had reached the capital Reykjavik, nearly 250 miles to the west, and the country's airspace was closed.
In April last year, 34 countries shut their airspace after Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted. It was the largest such closure since the Second World War and millions of passengers were affected. The International Air Transport Association estimated the global airline industry lost €150m a day during the disruption.
Experts and aviation authorities said the impact of the Grimsvotn eruption should not be as severe and was likely to affect mainly Iceland.
Gunnar Gudmundsson, of Iceland's meteorological office, said: "I don't expect this will have the same effect as Eyjafjallajokull volcano because the ash is not as fine."
But he acknowledged that changing weather patterns could sweep the ash into areas where it would affect other countries.
Einar Kjartansson, a geophysicist at Iceland's met office, said: "If the eruption lasts for a long time we could be seeing similar effects as last year."
A spokesman for Eurocontrol, the European air safety organisation, said ash could reach Scotland tomorrow, adding: "If volcanic emissions continue with the same intensity, the cloud may reach French airspace and north Spain on Thursday."
Grimsvotn, which erupted nine times between 1922 and 2004, is located in a giant caldera -- a collapsed volcanic crater. (© Daily Telegraph, London)