Volcanic ash cloud: “We can’t rule out disruption”

Despite initial confidence that there would be little or no disruption caused by the ash cloud from the ‘significant eruption’ of the Iceland’s Grímsvötn volcano, aviation authorities in the UK and in Ireland seem to be becoming less certain that will be the case. 

Video from Russia Today on YouTube.

From the Irish Times report

The IAA said that while it did not expect any flight disruptions within the next 48 hours the picture could change later in the week.

“We don’t believe there will be any kind of disruption in the next 48 hours,” Martin Towey, the IAA’s senior aviation executive said but added that there “could possibly be some disruption towards the end of the week.”

The European Commission described it as “an evolving situation” and said there was “a possibility of volcanic ash affecting European airspace, starting with north western Europe, including the UK and Ireland.”

The Commission said the European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell (EACCC) had been activated and its first formal meeting took place this morning. “Guidance will be issued to all Member States by the EACCC later today.”

Unlike last year’s event, the more changeable weather conditions currently are making firm predictions difficult – see the UK Met Office’s air ash concentration graphics for updates.  And, apparently, it’s a different kind of ash…

Although Grimsvotn’s larger particles should come to Earth faster, it is a bigger event.

In its earliest phase, over the weekend, it was emitting 10-100 times more material per second than Eyjafjallajokull.

That was seen in the height reached by the plume, which climbed to 17km (11 miles), compared with the 6-9km altitude reached by the Eyjafjallajokull ash.

At the moment, the weather is not behaving in a way that will bring substantial quantities of ash towards European airspace.

But if that situation changes, the meteorological agencies say they are ready for it.

And from the Guardian report

At the moment if the volcano continues to erupt to the same level it has been, and is now, the UK could be at risk of seeing volcanic ash later this week,” said Helen Chivers, a Met Office spokeswoman. “Quite when and how much we can’t really define at the moment.”

She said the weather situation was likely to be different from last year, with the wind direction set to change continuously. She added: “If it moves in the way that we’re currently looking, with the eruption continuing the way it is, then if the UK is at risk later this week, then France and Spain could be as well.”

While the ash has grounded aircraft in Iceland, it is not anticipated that it will have a similar impact in the rest of Europe.

Dr Dave McGarvie, volcanologist at the Open University, said the amount of ash reaching the UK was “likely to be less than in the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption”, and the last two times Grimsvötn erupted it had not affected UK air travel.

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