April 20, 2024

Iceland Volcano Closes Airports

PARIS — Iceland’s four international airports were closed to most flights on Sunday as the island nation’s most active volcano erupted for a second day, sending billows of ash 12 miles into the atmosphere, aviation and meteorological officials said.

The prevailing winds were expected to blow the ash west all week, meteorologists said. Because of the wind and the weight of the ash particles, which will make them drop faster, officials did not expect a repeat of the widespread disruption of European air traffic in May and April of last year, when an eruption at another Icelandic volcano grounded more than 100,000 flights.

But in a conference call with weather experts and officials responsible for European airspace, airlines were told that if the current weather patterns persisted, ash could reach northern Scotland by midday Tuesday and other parts of Britain as well as western France and northern Spain by Thursday or Friday, said a spokeswoman for Eurocontrol, the agency in Brussels that coordinates European air traffic.

The eruptions at the volcano, Grimsvotn, which is beneath the Vatnajokull ice cap in southeast Iceland, are the first there since 2004. On Saturday, Iceland’s civil protection agency imposed a no-fly zone of about 140 miles around the volcano. Reykjavik-Keflavik International Airport shut down on Sunday morning, and the country’s three other international airports were closed to most commercial flights later in the day, said Hjordis Gudmundsdottir, a spokeswoman for Isavia, Iceland’s air navigation services provider.

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano, one of the island’s largest, erupted in April 2010 and sent numerous bursts of ash into the atmosphere for weeks. The authorities in dozens of European countries moved quickly to ground airplanes in order to prevent damage to jet engines by the ash.

But because it was unclear which ash density levels were safe for jets, the authorities were slow to reopen their airspace — resulting in the worst peacetime air travel disruption in history.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ab1bf484dd786a1a1d5b2df8585eb63e

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