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April 15, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Volcano's Canceled Flights: UK Today, Scandinavia this Weekend?

This is not a new eruption for the small Eyjafjallajökull Volcano of Iceland, though it is certainly the largest recent eruption. NOTAMs (NOtices To AirMen) have been issued to air traffic sporadically for the past couple of weeks as emissions were of concern to aircraft operators. Today, flight level winds are carrying the volcanic ash directly to the UK and are noted to be as high as 35,000 feet. However, as the upper-level wind patterns begin to shift over the next 48 hours, these winds will carry the volcanic ash (whatever there may be) eastward from Iceland rather than southeastward, putting Norway and Sweden directly in the path of this airborne cloud of dust or tephra, tiny bits of pulverized rock and glass typically less than 2 millimeters in diameter.


When aircraft encounter tephra, machinery can become fouled. Fuel, intake and water systems can be damaged to the point of failure. In the case of aircraft this can mean the total stoppage of aircraft engines, which then may or may not be able to be restarted.


Eyjafjallajökull Volcano. Photo: Wikipedia


The Eyjafjallajökull Volcano is not the only active volcano in this part of the world. Two in Guatemala, one in Ecuador and Mt. Etna in Italy are all emitting ash into the atmosphere. This image comes from Universal Weather and Aviation where global volcanic emissions are monitored.

This image shows a sampling of today’s canceled flights. Photo: Reuters.

Flight level winds at 24,000ft on Saturday show mainly westerly winds at 50-90 knots from Iceland to Norway and Sweden. Though the UK is in the path of these winds today, aviators over Scandinavia may have issues this weekend if the volcanic emissions continue.





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