New Iceland volcano threat for flights

The eruption of another Icelandic volcano has already claimed some flight cancellations.

Travel Insurance News - 23/05/2011

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Iceland’s main airport has been shut and domestic flights have been suspended after the island nation’s most active volcano started erupting. Smoke from the Grimsvotn volcano rose to an altitude of 20kms.

According to Iceland’s Meteorological Office, however, this eruption is not likely to cause such widespread disruption of air travel as seen last year. Huge clouds of ash emitted by another volcano in Iceland caused havoc across European airspace for six days last year.

The knock-on effects of the closure of almost all of Europe’s airspace last year were felt around the world. The tongue-twisting volcano, Eyjafjallajokul, hit the headlines as it left planes grounded and tens of thousands of travellers stranded.

Governments, aviation authorities and airlines, fearing dangerous damage to jet engines from tiny particles of volcanic ash, closed airports and grounded commercial aircraft. This year, however, the type of eruption and prevailing winds are different.

As a result, authorities say there is little chance of this eruption interrupting international air travel to the same degree. Though the island’s main international airport, Keflavik, was expected to stay shut through Sunday, the effects elsewhere in Europe should be minimal.

Grimsvotn has not erupted since 2004. Lying beneath a glacier, the volcano’s eruption this time is described as more intense and much larger than that experienced last year by Eyjafjallajokul.

Despite the stronger eruption, the winds in the region are weaker than they were last year. Bigger pieces of ash this year, plus less wind, mean the ash is not spreading so far.

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