Huge Russian volcano erupts with threat to European flights

Cloud of ash spreads more than 100,000 square kilometres

Benjamin Parker
Tuesday 11 April 2023 09:50 BST
Russia's Shiveluch volcano erupts, sending ash plume 10kms high

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An aviation warning has been triggered following an eruption from one of Russia’s most active volcanoes, with a huge cloud of ash shot into the sky.

The Shiveluch volcano, in the country’s eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, erupted just after midnight and reached its climax six hours later, sending out a cloud of ash over an area of 108,000 square kilometres, according to the Kamchatka Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Geophysical Survey.

Villages have been carpeted in drifts of grey ash almost 10 centimetres deep, according to Reuters, the deepest in 60 years. Lava flows have been pouring down the side of the volcano, melting snow and prompting a mud flow warning.

The incident has led to concerns about how this eruption will impact global flight routes.

The Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team issued a red notice for aviation, saying “ongoing activity could affect international and low-flying aircraft.”

In April 2010, a huge ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano covered northern Europe, grounding thousands of flights as countries imposed the biggest airspace closure since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

It took a week before flights resumed progressively in Europe, with 95,000 cancelled in that time.

And in 2018, scientists warned another volcano in Iceland, Katla, could cause global disruption if it erupts. It last blew in 1918, having previously done so around every 50 years – leaving it overdue for another eruption.

Danila Chebrov, director of the Kamchatka branch of the Geophysical Survey, said: “The ash reached 20 kilometres high, the ash cloud moved westwards and there was a very strong fall of ash on nearby villages.”

“The volcano was preparing for this for at least a year... and the process is continuing though it has calmed a little now,” he added.

Further major ash clouds could not be ruled out, he said, but lava flows should not reach local villages.

One of Kamchatka’s largest and most active volcanoes, Shiveluch has had an estimated 60 substantial eruptions in the past 10,000 years, the last major one being in 2007.

It has two main parts, the smaller of which – Young Shiveluch – scientists have reported as being extremely active in recent months, with a peak of 2,800 metres that protrudes out of the 3,283 metre-high Old Shiveluch.

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