Grimsvotn volcano

Engineers say it is unlikely that Iceland eruption will close UK airspace

Iceland’s Grimsvotn eruption is ‘unlikely’ to close UK airspace, an engineering institution says.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers director of engineering Dr Colin Brown said it was “very unlikely” that UK airspace would have to close because of the latest eruption.

“The key factor is that this is a different volcano than the one that erupted last year and this volcano typically has produced molten lava rather than fine ash in the past.

“This, combined with the fact that winds aren’t currently pushing any of the ash produced towards the UK, means that it is very unlikely that UK airspace will have to be closed,” Dr Brown said.

In April 2010, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull eruption prompted aviation officials to close Europe's airspace for five days out of fear that the ash could harm jet engines. Thousands of flights were grounded, airlines lost millions and millions of travellers were stranded, many sleeping on airport floors.

Eurocontrol’s models of ash concentration in the latest case showed the main plume of ash at heights from 20,000 feet to 35,000 - the normal altitudes for passenger airliners - gradually extending northward from Iceland over the next two days. The cloud is predicted to arch its way north of Scandinavia and possibly touch the islands off the northern Russian coastline within the next two days.

A smaller plume could reach as far as the western coast of Scotland during that period, and the eastern coast of Greenland.

Iceland shut its main airport after Grimsvotn, about 120 miles east of Reykjavik, erupted on Saturday.

Neither plume is projected to reach the European mainland. They are also not expected to affect trans-Atlantic flights, whose eastbound and westbound tracks are located further much south of the projected ash dispersal.

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