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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Threat from ash cloud fades as experts predict wind change

An aircraft maintenance worker covers a jet engine intake on a Ryanair plane with cling film at Belfast City Airport yesterday
An aircraft maintenance worker covers a jet engine intake on a Ryanair plane with cling film at Belfast City Airport yesterday

Jason O'Brien

VOLCANIC ash in the upper atmosphere is likely to largely miss Ireland until tomorrow at least, Met Eireann predicted last night.

And a leading climatologist has said that the prevailing winds over this country mean that a regular reoccurrence of this week's difficulties are unlikely, even if the volcano continues to erupt in Iceland.

"We're relatively close to Iceland so we're in the line of fire if we have a north-westerly wind," Professor John Sweeney, a climatologist at NUI Maynooth, told the Irish Independent. "I think, given our prevailing (south westerly) winds . . . it is very unlikely that we'd have this kind of a situation lasting for a very long time.

"I think we're more likely to see the ash and dustfall travelling to Scandinavia if it continues erupting.


"A high pressure system between Ireland and Iceland doesn't tend to last that long so I wouldn't see it as something we have to get concerned about on a very long-term basis. But as long as the eruption continues we could get instances of it."

The plume of ash from Iceland was last night in the upper atmosphere above Scotland, to the east of Ireland over England, and just offshore to the south and southwest of the country.

Met Eireann's Evelyn Cusack said an area of high pressure was keeping the plume from settling directly over the country, and this was expected to remain the case until tomorrow at least, with cooler weather moving in on Monday and Tuesday.

The atmosphere above much of the southern part of the country is expected to contain the ash and, with light rain forecast tomorrow, some of it may fall to the ground.

There were reports of unusual dust deposits in many parts of the west and northwest yesterday afternoon, but Met Eireann said it was unlikely to be volcanic ash.

The prevailing winds are expected to return to their usual direction, blowing from the southwest on Wednesday, a feature which is expected to take the plume away from Ireland.

"We can see an end in sight to it by the middle of next week," Ms Cusack said.

Prof Sweeney agreed, but added the plume would take longer to disperse from much of the rest of Europe. "I think there's not much in the way of active ingredients currently in the dust," he said. "There's not likely to be a heavy dustfall in Ireland.

"At this stage I wouldn't think there's any major health implications arising but if the composition of the volcano changes then that prognosis could change, depending on how acidic the substances become."

Today will be sunny across most of the country, with temperatures reaching 17C in some areas. However, it will be cooler tomorrow and light rain is expected in many areas.

Irish Independent

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