Monday, May 30, 2011

Iceland volcano expected to calm down in a few days

STOCKHOLM — Iceland’s volcano is producing mostly steam rather than ash and should calm down within a few days, national police said on Thursday encouraging hopes there will be no further disruption to flights in northern Europe.
The Grimsvotn volcano’s eruption over the weekend, which was more powerful than an explosion one year ago at another volcano, has caused far less chaos for travellers because of new rules for airlines.
But it has exposed some disarray among the authorities which decide on aviation safety.
“The volcano is still active, but there is just steam and smoke,” Hjalmar Bjorgvinsson, superintendent at the national police, told Reuters.
“I hope in a few days it will go to sleep again. Everything is moving in the right direction.”
European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said no airspacewas closed due to volcanic ash on Thursday and there was expected to be very little or no impact on European air traffic over thenext 48 hours.
The agency said about 900 flights had been cancelled between Monday and Wednesday out of a total 90,000 planned flights over the three days.
The eruption forced cancellations in flights in Scotland, northern England, Germany and parts of Scandinavia.
Geophysicists say the worst appears to be over and that the volcano is not likely to start spewing big amounts of ash again, though volcanoes are extremely unpredictable.
The ash cloud from Grimsvotn — Iceland’s most active volcano — rose as high as 20 kilometres into the sky after the eruption but gradually fell before disappearing early Wednesday morning.
Iceland’s civil protection andemergency management said there was very little ash or magma coming from the volcano.
“You could say it’s almost over, but we cannot declare the eruption as over,” spokesman Rognvalpur Olafsson said.
He said efforts were underway to assist the roughly 1,000 people who have been affected by the fallout from the volcano.
“It’s raining in the area now — since yesterday — and if you look at the fields they actually appear green because the rain is washing the ash away,” he said.
More than 10 million people were hit by a six-day European airspace shutdown when Eyjafjallajökull erupted last year, costing airlines almost$2 billion.
New procedures put the onus on airlines to make judgments on whether it is safe to fly through ash, in coordination with the forecasting authorities, particularly the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre at the British Met Office and civil aviation bodies.

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