Volcano Affects Europe's Air Traffic
A volcano in Iceland is sending ash plumes into the atmosphere that are affecting aviation in Europe, but the impact is not expected to be nearly as dramatic as last year's eruption. In April 2010, Europe's airspace was shut down for five days due to volcanic ash, grounding more than 100,000 flights. Since then, flight rules have changed to require much higher ash concentrations before airspace is closed. Also, the consistency of the ash from the current eruption is coarse, so it falls to the ground quickly and is less likely to affect aircraft than last year's fine particles. However, the volcano disrupted President Barack Obama's travel plans -- he left Ireland for London on Monday, rather than Tuesday as scheduled, to avoid being stranded by the ash cloud.
The eruption is the largest in a century for the Grimsvotn volcano, which has been quiet since 2004. It is expected to calm down within a few days. "It is not likely to be anything on the scale that was produced last year when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted," University of Iceland geophysicist Pall Einarsson told The Associated Press. "That was an unusual volcano, an unusual ash size distribution and unusual weather pattern, which all conspired together to make life difficult in Europe." The impact of this week's ash cloud will depend on whether the volcano calms down as expected and how weather systems develop.