Volcano Halts Iceland’s Air Traffic

In Europe, News Headlines, Volcanoes

A new volcanic eruption in Iceland shut down the country’s airspace, a year after the eruption of nearby Eyjafjoell caused aviation chaos across Europe.

Experts and aviation authorities said, however, that the impact of the Grimsvoetn eruption should not be as far-reaching.

Grimsvoetn, Iceland’s most active volcano located at the heart of its biggest glacier Vatnajoekull, began erupting late on Saturday, sending a plume of smoke and ash as high as 20 kilometres into the sky.

Ash soon covered nearby villages and farms and had by Sunday morning reached the capital, nearly 400 kilometres to the west.

“It’s just black outside, and you can hardly tell it is supposed to be bright daylight,” Bjorgvin Hardarsson, a farmer at Hunbakkar Farm in the nearby village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur said..

On Sunday morning, Iceland’s airport administration, Isavia, announced that the country’s main airport Keflavik was shutting and that virtually all of the country’s airspace was closing due to the ash cloud.

The airspace closure “affects pretty much all of Iceland right now, at least for the next hours… Flights to and from Iceland are shutting down,” Isavia spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir said, adding that flight routes to the north of the North Atlantic island nation might also be affected.

However, she stressed, the fact that winds were blowing the ash to the north was far better than last year’s eruption of Eyjafjoell, when a massive cloud of ash was blown to the south and south-east over mainland Europe.

The Eyjafjoell eruption caused the planet’s biggest airspace shutdown since World War II, lasting almost a month, amid fears the volcanic ash could wreak havoc on aircraft engines.

By late on Sunday morning, no other European countries had decided to close their airspace, although aviation authorities in Britain and Scandinavia, among the hardest hit last year, said they were keeping a close eye on developments.

The European air safety organisation EUROCONTROL said no impact was expected on European airspace outside Iceland or on transatlantic flights for at least 24 hours.

With ash falling on villages in the surrounding area and as far away as Reykjavik on Sunday, geophysicists at Iceland’s Meteorological Office told AFP they expected the Grimsvoetn eruption to have far less impact on international flights than last year’s blast.

“I don’t expect this will have the same effect as Eyjafjoell volcano because the ash is not as fine,” Gunnar Gudmundsson told AFP.

“I don’t think this will have much of an effect on international flights, or that it will shut down airports abroad,” he said.

Einar Kjartansson, another geophysicist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, however insisted “it’s much too early to say”.

“If the eruption lasts for a long time we could be seeing similar effects as seen with Eyjafjoell last year,” he cautioned, but added that for the time being “most of the traffic at least to the south of Iceland will probably not be affected”.

“We don’t know what will happen after that. We are expecting weather changes on Tuesday, when the winds should change to a north-westerly direction and the ash should clear from us here (in Reykjavik),” he said.

Experts have been quick to note though that no two volcanic eruptions are alike, and Mr Gudmundsson said it was unlikely that Grimsvoetn would emit a similar kind of ash – fine, with very sharp particles – as found in the massive plume that burst from Eyjafjoell.

“The eruption is still going strong, but because the ash is basalt it is rougher and falls back down to earth much quicker,” he said.

Grimsvoetn, which has erupted nine times between 1922 and 2004, is located in an enormous caldera – a collapsed volcanic crater – eight kilometres in diameter near the centre of the Vatnajoekull icefield.

When it last erupted in November 2004, volcanic ash fell as far away as mainland Europe and caused minor disruptions in flights to and from Iceland.

Geologists had worried late last year the volcano was about to blow when they noticed a large river run caused by rapidly melting glacier ice.

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.

Mobile Sliding Menu