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European air traffic controllers have told the BBC that about 500 flights have been cancelled so far as a result of the ash from an Icelandic volcanic eruption on Saturday. Services out of the northern UK are expected to resume after thousands of passengers were affected yesterday.
The Grímsvötn volcano is situated in the southeast of Iceland and had been dormant since 2004. It started erupting on the eve of 21 May and quickly discontinued all air traffic in the country. Since then, the ash cloud has drifted over the Northern part of Europe and Germany has as of Wednesday closed its northern airspace – Berlin is due to cancel its traffic later today.
Memories of the chaos caused by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull have already made stranded passengers and carriers worried. The BBC reported that there was a strong possibility the ash would travel over part of Scandinavia on Wednesday, but the impact on flight is likely to be limited.
The tough stance by the German transport authority has created some unease since Germany’s rules on air traffic through volcanic ash seem to differ from the rest of Europe, the BBC reported. Calls have been for Europe-wide rules.
The eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano last year in April caused the largest closure of European airspace since The Second World War and meant losses of up to £2 billion. Experts have made clear that the case of Eyjafjallajoekull was unusual and the conditions of last year’s eruption created an unpredictable but explosive mix. A Danish/Icelandic scientific team ruled the decision to close the airspace as a consequence as the right choice, according to the BBC.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has said that although the Grímsvötn eruption was bigger, the likelihood of equal amounts of airspace disruptions is small. This is due to the ash plume being injected much higher into the atmosphere.
“Ground-based radar measurements in Iceland indicate that the ash reached heights of 12-17 km and is initially moving towards northern Scandinavia,” ESA explains on their website.
Furthermore, the particles from Grímsvötn eruption are larger and will fall down to Earth faster – which in combination with the current weather-conditions would mean that no substantial quantities of ash will drift into European airspace. Still, the BBC reports that the meteorological agencies will be ready if the weather situation changes.
This morning, a spokeswoman for the British National Air Traffic Service (NATS) told the BBC that there was no volcanic ash currently predicted for airspace of the UK at a density that would have an impact on flights.
In the UK, the ash has meant the US President Barack Obama has been forced to shorten his visit to Ireland. Elsewhere, football fans are watching the situation closely as the players of Barcelona FC are expected to play at Saturday’s Champions League Final against Manchester United at Wembley, London.
All passengers traveling on the affected routes in Europe are advised to keep in close contact with their travel agents or airlines for the latests status updates.