Icelandic Volcano Stops Spewing Ash, Screwing With Flights

An Icelandic volcano that caused air traffic chaos after erupting last month has gone dormant but it is too early to declare the eruption over, an official said Monday.

A picture taken by an Icelandic test flight over the volcano on Saturday 22nd May shows less ash and more steam being ejected. Picture: CNN

Airlines across Europe stopped flying for days after the volcano under the Eyjafjallajakull glacier erupted in mid-April, spewing high levels of ash. Ash particles can cause serious damage if absorbed into airplane engines.

And now experts say some steam is rising from Eyjafjallajokul but no ash, with scientists from the Met Office and the University of Iceland classing the eruption as ‘dormant’ yesterday.

Heat camera footage from early indicated that the temperature inside the crater had dropped to 100 C, meaning the volcano is now producing steam rather than magma and ash, according to the status report issued by the Icelandic Met Office and Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland. Tremors inside the volcano are also decreasing and approaching the level before the eruption.

Jonsson Thorsteinn, an Icelandic Met Office forecaster, told CNN: “The volcano appears to be dormant, the activity has been going down for the last two days and at the moment there is nothing coming out… no magma.”

Civil Protection Agency official Iris Marelsdottir said: “Now we can only wait and see. It’s too early to say this is over, but at the moment it is quiet.”

Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted on 14 April for the first time in two centuries, leading to a six-day shutdown of UK airspace under international aviation rules which banned all flying in areas affected by the ash cloud.

Most northern European countries similarly shut their airspace over the period 15-20 April, grounding an estimated 10 million travelers worldwide and costing the airline industry £2.1bn.

Most of the cost has been incurred by Europe’s airlines, with BA losing up to £20m a day. The European airline sector was already expected to lose $2.2bn this year, and some analysts have warned that the ash cloud could drive weaker airlines out of business.

See the infographic: The Financial Impact of the Icelandic Volcano

The last eruption in Iceland in November 2004 from the Grímsvötn volcano caused an ash plume over Scandinavia and caused short-term disruption of air traffic into Iceland.

Scientists have warned that there is still a significant chance that the much larger Katla volcano, to the east of Eyjafjallajökull, will erupt; the previous three times Eyjafjallajökull erupted, Katla did also. And on average, Katla has erupted every 60 years and has not done so significantly since 1918. [via DailyMail (UK) and CNN]

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