Volcanic Ash Returns to Haunt European Skies

Iceland's weapon of air travel  destruction

Eyjafjallajokul spews forth again

The airlines’ nightmare —  the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name —  has returned to wreak more disruption.

Driven by a weather depression off Spain and Portugal, it is set to reach “high concentrations over southern France” by the end of the Saturday (May 8) public holiday, the national weather service – Météo France says.

The Eyjafjallajokul ash plume, which caused havoc to travellers across Europe in mid-April, was affecting the Iberian Peninsula on Saturday, and Spain closed 19 airports, including Barcelona. Aena – Spain’s national airport authority said 673 flights were cancelled Saturday morning.

In France, Marseille announced the cancellation of 12 of 280 scheduled Saturday flights. “All Ryanair flights after 1600 are cancelled,” a Marseille Provence Airport spokesman told French news agency AFP. Domestic flights to or from Lille, Nantes and Brest, and international flights, to and from Oslo, Agadir, Cagliari and Faro were affected.

“A depression is widening off Spain and Portugal. This will drive the ash cloud towards southwest France and it could reach the the southern half of the country overnight”, Roxane Désiré, a Météo France forecaster, told the national news agency AFP.

” Ash concentrations are expected up to 6,000 m of altitude, at densities above the safety threshold set by the aerospace industry and to cause disruptions to air traffic,” she said. The levels now detected are “stronger than the initial episode,” she said.

Eurocontrol, the European air traffic management agency said transatlantic airlines could no longer safely fly over the top of the Atlantic ash cloud because it has reached 35,000ft, the typical cruising altitude of aircraft.

Eurocontrol spokesman Kyla Evans said: ‘Flights are being rerouted south of the no-fly zone, which means there are many more aircraft passing through the Spanish air traffic control sectors, rather than taking the usual routes over Ireland’.

Until Eyjafjallajokul calms down, the future of Europe’s ash crisis will be in the hands of prevailing Atlantic winds.

And now the airlines fight back –  update here

Story: Ken Pottinger


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