New flight chaos fears as Iceland volcano erupts

18:12 El NACHO 0 Comments

Authorities shut Iceland’s airspace on Sunday after the country’s most active volcano began spewing ash cloud 20 km into the sky, raising fears of a repeat of last year’s flights chaos.

While experts said the impact of the Grimsvoetn eruption should not be as far-reaching as the 2010 crisis, ash deposits were being sprinkled over the capital Reykjavik some 400 km (250 miles) to the west.

Residents living near Grimsvoetn said the skies had turned black in an eerie echo of the impact of last year’s eruption of the smaller Eyjafjoell volcano, which led to the biggest global airspace shutdown since World War II.

“It’s just black outside, and you can hardly tell it is supposed to be bright daylight,” Bjorgvin Hardarsson, a farmer in the nearby village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur said.

Grimsvoetn, Iceland’s most active volcano located at the heart of its biggest glacier Vatnajoekull, began erupting late Saturday.

Ash soon covered nearby villages and farms and by Sunday morning invisible deposits had reached the capital, prompting Iceland’s airport authority, Isavia, to announce the main airport Keflavik was shutting.

The airspace closure “affects pretty much all of Iceland right now... flights to and from Iceland are shutting down,” Isavia spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir said, adding that flight routes to the north of the North Atlantic island nation might also be affected.

Gudmundsdottir said the closure would remain until at least 6:00pm (1800 GMT).

However, she stressed, the fact that winds were blowing the ash to the north were far better than last year’s eruption of Eyjafjoell, when a massive cloud of ash was blown to the south and southeast over mainland Europe.

Elin Jonasdottir, an aviation expert at the Icelandic Meteorologist Office, said that while the eruption had lost some of its initial intensity, it was too soon to predict how long the danger would last.

“The latest update is that the eruption is still going strong. The plume is now at an altitude of about 10 km,” she said.

Jonasdottir said although the current altitude was only half of its height on Saturday, the plume usually hits a peak after an eruption begins and so it was not an indication that it was tapering off.

“The plume is reaching above the tropopause (the atmospheric boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere) where most of weather happens, so there is still a danger that the ash can travel.