Friday 19 January 2018

Dry and calm weather keeps ash over Europe

Shane Hickey

THE massive ash cloud hanging over Ireland and the rest of Europe is not moving away owing to the dry weather and lack of wind.

However, it is hoped that south-westerly winds on Friday will clear the ash away and allow air services to return to normal.

Met Eireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack said yesterday there would be no major movement from the air mass over Ireland until later this week.

"The reason there is so much ash is because the airflow is coming down from Iceland. It is essentially dry over most of Europe so there is nothing to wash the ash out, there is no wind to move it. It is stagnant," she said.

The root of the problem lies with an area of high pressure which is blocking out Atlantic rain belts, said Ms Cusack.

She said she had a "reasonable degree of confidence" that the south-western winds would come up by Friday.

However, Maurice Mullen from the Department of Transport said this was still just a forecast and the volcano was still emitting ash.

The eruption of Mount Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland started on April 14 and further eruptions have continued periodically.

Met Eireann said the plume of volcanic ash covered a large swathe of Europe and out into the Atlantic. It is affecting most of western Europe with one section of the plume spreading across southern Scandinavia, Finland and the Baltic States.

Another branch of the vast plume of ash is spreading across northern Italy and central Europe.

Also of concern is that an adjoining volcano could now erupt, as has happened in the past.

Dr Brian McConnell from the Geological Survey of Ireland said this was a concern -- but there was no evidence that this was occurring.

While there have been instances of the two volcanoes going off at similar times, there have only been three eruptions since the 10th century, he added.

The high level of ash is being produced because the eruption is taking place beneath the icecap of Mount Eyjafjallajokull.

The resultant mixture of molten rock, the magma and the glacial ice is causing the magma to cool quickly and be pulverised into tiny fragments of rock, say experts.

The ash is then lifted into the air by steam plumes which have been created by the melted ice.

Irish Independent

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