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Monday, May 23, 2011

Europe monitors Icelandic volcano

Lightning is seen through smoke and ash pouring out of the erupting Grimsvoetn volcano. Photograph: Ragnar Axelsson/AFP/Getty Images
Lightning is seen through smoke and ash pouring out of the erupting
 Grimsvoetn volcano. Photograph: Ragnar Axelsson/AFP/Getty Image

An eruption by Iceland's most active volcano is set to keep the island's main airport shut today, while other European nations watched for any impact on their air routes from a towering plume of smoke and ash.
However, experts said they saw little chance of a repeat of last year's six-day closure of airspace, which also hit transatlantic flights, when another Icelandic volcano erupted, although airlines have been warned the new ash cloud will drift.
So far Iceland, particularly the towns and villages to the south and east of the Grimsvotn volcano, has suffered most as a thick cloud of ash descended on the area, smothering cars and buildings.
The cloud had also begun to drift over the capital Reykjavik by late yesterday evening, and the civil aviation authority said the prospects for reopening the main international airport today were not good.
Europe's air traffic control organisation warned on its website that ash could spread southwards.
"Ash cloud is expected to reach North Scotland on Tuesday 24th May. If volcanic emissions continue with same intensity, cloud might reach west French airspace and north Spain on Thursday 26th May," Eurocontrol said in a traffic bulletin.
Iceland's meteorological office said the plume from Grimsvotn, which last exploded in 2004, had fallen in height from a peak of about 25km in the hours after the eruption and was now holding steady.
"It has been steady all night just below 10 kilometres," met office forecaster Teitur Arason said, adding current wind conditions were spreading the ashes in separate directions.

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