Ash from an erupting Icelandic volcano that has already grounded planes locally could enter UK airspace by Tuesday, forecasters have warned.
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 into the air.
However experts said the eruption was unlikely to have the dramatic impact that the Eyjafjallajökull volcano had in April last year, when flights were cancelled over the UK and much of Europe for several days.
Paul Mott, forecaster at Meteogroup, said ash from the volcano could potentially reach the UK by Tuesday.
“Both the upper level and lower level winds will be becoming north-westerly through Monday and Tuesday as well, so between Iceland and Scotland there’ll be northwesterlies,” he said last night.
“So certainly any ash plume could potentially move from Iceland towards northern Scotland. I think that risk does increase through tomorrow night and into Tuesday.”
Mott said that ash was “fairly unlikely over southern Scotland or anywhere south of that”, although the Met Office said it was too early to rule out ash entering other parts of Britain.
“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 Eyjafjallajökull 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 Eyjafjallajökull 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, the Europe-wide air traffic control network, 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.”