Thursday, April 22, 2010

News Release: Flights Resume, Iceland Eruption Rages On

By Jon Lindenauer

The past several days have seen many major European airports resume air travel following the dual eruptions of Iceland’s Mt. Eyjafjallajökull. However, due to a shift in winds that has sent the volcanic plume over Scandinavia, flights set to leave Sweden and Norway are now stalled.

Approximately 90% of Germany’s flights have now resumed, along with almost all British flights. However, Norway, Sweden, Finland and northern Scotland are still experiencing delays in their aviation capabilities.

Flight capabilities have resumed throughout most of Europe, but due to lingering effects of the eruption and resulting flight backlogging is still causing many delays and cancellations.

The eruption first began on March 20th, preventing air travel by European airliners which would be adversely impacted by the smoke and ash rising from the volcano as they cross the Atlantic. The airline industry will reportedly lose in excess of $2 billion as a result of the natural disaster.

Additionally, the volcano produces a phenomenon known as “volcanic lightning.” Otherwise known as “dirty thunderstorms,” volcanic lightning is caused by the static electricity produced by emissions of gases and rock into the atmosphere by a volcano. This paired with the high amounts of water and ice at the summit of Eyjafjallajökull causes powerful and abundant lightning storms and poses a massive threat to air travel.

At this point, the plume cloud generated by the volcano is not expected to climb higher than 20,000 feet, with Trans-Atlantic flights passing over unscathed at well above 35,000 feet. However, during recent helicopter news coverage of the volcano, Associated Press film crews and photographers noted having to contend with “magma chunks the size of cars and sent powerful shock waves into the air.”

Aside from flight disruption, climatologists indicate the eruption could have significant long-term effects on the global climate, as major volcanic eruptions tend to have a global cooling effect. When Iceland’s volcano Laki erupted in 1783, North America saw one of its coldest winters the following year.

For updated flight and related information, see the New York Times online news blog.

“Iceland’s Eruptions Could Have Global Consequences.” ABC News.
“Flights take off but ash limits Norway, Sweden.” Associated Press.
“Tracking Airport Status.” The New York Times.

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