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Monday, May 23, 2011

Iceland volcano ash to hit UK by Tuesday

Ash cloud moves towards UK airspace

Iceland volcano
Ash from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano expected to affect Heathrow by the end of the week

Airlines and airports have been warned to expect ash from an erupting Icelandic volcano to arrive in UK airspace by Tuesday, with the possibility that it could affect Heathrow by the end of the week.

Europe's air traffic control organisation, Eurocontrol, told airlines and airports on Monday that particles from the Grimsvotn volcano could reach Scotland by 1am on Tuesday and southern England by Thursday or Friday, depending on wind direction.

An aviation industry source said if the volcano continues to erupt at same intensity ash cloud could reach the west of the UK on Thursday or Friday, but the Met Office has low confidence in the forecast because of a prevailing low pressure system.

However, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it was confident that a new Europe-wide safety regime introduced after the Eyjafjallajokull eruption last year would reduce disruption significantly and avoid the continental shutdown that stranded millions.

Under previous guidelines, aeroplanes were summarily grounded if there was any volcanic ash in the air. Now, airlines can fly through ash plumes if they have a safety case demonstrating that their fleets can handle medium or high-level densities of ash.

A CAA spokesman said most major airlines already have safety cases for medium-density ash clouds.

"We are in a much better position than last time," he said. "Safety will still be paramount but we will be able to drastically reduce disruption compared to last time, provided there is not a huge amount of high-density ash." The spokesman said a similar level of ash to the Eyjafjallajokull incident would not result in a mass-grounding. "It will be a different picture."

BAA, the owner of Heathrow, Stansted, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports, has convened a crisis support team to prepare for a reduction in flights, as airlines and airports await a further briefing from National Air Traffic Services (Nats). "We are working closely with the CAA and Nats in preparing contingency plans if ash enters UK airspace," it said.

Under the new ash guidelines, cloud densities are split into three levels: low; medium; and high. Once Nats assigns a particular density of ash to a section of airspace, airlines must prove that they have the safety case to fly through it. A low density cloud is 2g of ash per ten cubic metres of air, with medium being 2g to 4g of ash per ten cubic metres of air. Anything above 4g is deemed high density.

The Grimsvotn volcano began erupting on Sunday, causing flights to be cancelled at Iceland's main Keflavik airport after it sent a plume of ash smoke and steam 12 miles (19km) into the air. Experts have said the eruption was unlikely to have the dramatic impact that the Eyjafjallajokull volcano had in April 2010.

"At the moment if the volcano continues to erupt to the same level it has been, and is now, the UK could be at risk of seeing volcanic ash later this week," said Helen Chivers, Met Office spokeswoman. "Quite when and how much we can't really define at the moment."

Chivers said the weather situation is set to be different to last year, with the wind direction set to change continuously.

She added: "If it moves in the way that we're currently looking, with the eruption continuing the way it is, then if the UK is at risk later this week, then France and Spain could be as well."

While the ash has grounded aircraft in Iceland, it is not anticipated that it will have a similar impact in the rest of Europe.

Dr Dave McGarvie, volcanologist at the Open University, said that the amount of ash reaching the UK "is likely to be less than in the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption", and said the last two times Grimsvotn erupted it did not affect UK air travel.

"In addition, the experience gained from the 2010 eruption, especially by the Met Office, the airline industry, and the engine manufacturers, should mean less disruption to travellers."

The April eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, in south-east Iceland, caused the worst disruption to international air travel since 9/11. Flights across Europe were cancelled for six-days stranding tens of thousands of people and was estimated to have cost airlines £130m a day.

Eurocontrol said in a statement: "There is currently no impact on European or transatlantic flights and the situation is expected to remain so for the next 24 hours. Aircraft operators are constantly being kept informed of the evolving situation."

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Great Outdoors on May 24, 2011 at 12:08 AM said...

Iceland has always been geological¬ly active. Climate change has nothing to do with volcanic activity.
Climate change is documented and a very big problem but it is important that we all have our facts straight so that we do not lose credibilit¬y. The vested interests that want us to disregard climate change will use that against us.

Atlanta Roofing on May 24, 2011 at 2:47 AM said...

Looks like this will cause more global warming since the dark colored ash will deposit light absorbing dust on the snow of Northern Europe. The light will now be absorbed instead of being reflected back into space.

Green Thumb Gardening on May 24, 2011 at 10:39 PM said...

The ash in Grimsvotn is coarser than and not as likely to cause danger as it falls to the ground faster and doesn't stay as long in the air as in the Eyjafjallajokull eruption."

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