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April 19, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Iceland Volcano Continues to Cause Travel Nightmare in Europe

According to Eurocontrol, on a typical Monday they expect 28,000 flights to take place but today only 8,000 to 9,000 flights actually will. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about the major havoc the ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano has wrought on European air travel. By late Sunday, more than 63,000 flights had been canceled in 23 European countries. Not only are travelers affected, but companies are also finding it hard to conduct business as usual.

Geologists in Iceland said Sunday that the volcano is continuing to erupt with about the same force it had Wednesday. The last time Eyjafjallajokull began spewing ash and lava, in 1821, it went on until 1823.

Volcanic Ash Advisory. Image: UK Met Office

The latest information coming out of Eurocontrol is that air traffic control services are not being provided to civil aircraft in a major part of the European airspace. This includes Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, parts of France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, northern Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, parts of the Ukraine and the UK. With that being said, in some of these areas the upper airspace has been made available. Airspace across parts of Southern Europe are currently open for civil traffic, including Portugal, Spain, parts of Italy and France, the Balkan area, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and parts of northern Europe (including Norway and parts of Sweden).

One of the main things meteorologists look at when a volcano erupts is the upper level wind patterns. This is what has been steering the volcanic ash plume from Iceland to the UK and into Europe. The prevailing upper level winds have been blowing the volcanic ash towards Scandinavia and Europe. However, if the winds shift the other direction it could push the volcanic ash more westward and south of Greenland but that is unlikely.

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