Iceland volcano still spewing ash, Europe threatened

A plume of ash from an erupting volcano in Iceland is being blown south towards Britain and could reach the airspace over mainland Europe later in the week, meteorological experts said on Monday.

Two days into its most powerful eruption in over a century, monitors said that ash particles from the Grimsvoetn volcano had been scattered across much of the North Atlantic island whose airspace has been closed since Sunday.

The eruption of Grimsvoetn has evoked fears of a repeat of last year's travel chaos sparked by the eruption of another Icelandic volcano which led to the biggest shutdown of European airspace since World War II.

A spokeswoman for Iceland's airport authority, Isavia, told AFP Monday authorities hoped the main Keflavik airport could be reopened later in the day.

"We will know more at noon (1200 GMT) when we get new information on the ash cloud situation," Hjordis Gudmundsdottir said.

Most eyes however were turned to warnings that lower-level winds were changing direction and were blowing some of the ash towards Britain and possibly on to mainland Europe.

"The higher level winds are blowing towards the northwest," explained Peitur Arason, a forecaster at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, adding that "low-level winds are ... blowing strongly towards the UK."

While lower-level winds are close to the ground and thus will probably not manage to carry the ash as far afield, Arason said they would still "affect air travel."

Einar Kjartansson, a geophysicist based at the same organisation, stressed that predictions that ash would reach mainland Europe later in the week were "just a possibility and it's not guaranteed that it will happen."

European air traffic controllers in Brussels meanwhile said Monday they did not expect any further airspace closures due to the ash until the end of Tuesday.

France's junior transport secretary Thierry Mariani however warned that if the ash does reach Europe, "flights will be cancelled."

During last year's eruption at the neighbouring Eyjafjoell volcano, more than 100,000 flights were cancelled and eight million passengers stranded, dealing a harsh blow to the airline industry, particularly in Europe.

The threat of a repeat sent airline shares across the continent tumbling Monday, with German Lufthansa taking the biggest hit with a 4.56-percent slump.

How far the ash travels will depend on the strength of the winds and the intensity of the eruption, experts agree, pointing out that historically Grimsvoetn eruptions have tended to have very brief explosive stages, with the intensity usually subsiding significantly within a few days.

Arason said Monday the plume of ash, which reached a height of 20 kilometres (12 miles) at the outset, "has been steady at 10 kilometres all night."

As the lower half of that plume was blowing south towards Britain, the high end was still being pushed north, prompting Danish air traffic control authorities to close a portion of the airspace over the country's autonomous territory Greenland until at least 1200 GMT Monday.

And Norwegian airport operator Avinor said the ash had also led it to cancel flights between mainland Norway and the country's Arctic archipelago of Svalbard Monday, adding there was a "certain risk" airspace over western Norway would be affected as well.

Kjartansson meanwhile confirmed that the eruption was still going strong on Monday morning.

"Grimsvoetn is still going, although the power of the eruption is less than it was yesterday morning but similar to what it was last night," he told AFP.

"The ash has spread a fair amount across the country. There was ash over Reykjavik last night," he added.

str-nl/boc

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own