James Burton: Whatever happened to ... Iceland's volcanic ash

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The Independent Online

The ash cloud that stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers, threatened to blight a summer of air travel and turn 2010 into one long winter has, er, disappeared.

The Icelandic volcano which had been spewing ash into the atmosphere stopped erupting in late May, and this inconvenient natural phenomenon called Eyjafjallajokull has since behaved itself.

In April, when the cloud suddenly brought northern Europe to a skidding halt, it was said that disruption could last "for more than 20 years".

Even Iceland's President Olafur Grimsson weighed in, warning this eruption was just a "small rehearsal" for what was to come. He suggested Ketla, the volcano's more violent neighbour, was due to go off at any moment. One meteorology blog positively erupted with panic. If Ketla went up, it thundered, "the results could be globally devastating".

But not only has Eyjafjallajokull calmed down, but also Ketla's "imminent" eruption may not take place for another 100 years. Steinunn Jakobsdottir, a geophysicist with the Iceland Met Office, said: "People have been waiting for Ketla to erupt since before I was born, and I am 50 now."

The Civil Aviation Authority has developed more nuanced modelling techniques to track ash, and easyJet is implanting ash detectors on 12 of its aircraft. So good news for travellers all round, but perhaps less good for all the apocalyptic commentators.