Grimsvotn Ash To Reach UK Tuesday, Civil Aviation Authority Sees "Likely Disruption" To Flights; France, Spain Next

Call it Eyjafjallajokull part two, or, more pronouncedly, Grimsvotn part one. Just like last year, when the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano erupted and covered Europe in ash, grounding flights for about a week, so the 2011 vintage of Icelandic pyroclastic goodyness, contrary to "expert" predictions, is about to cause widespread havoc within European air traffic control. According to Eurocontrol, The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, whose twitter account is about to become all the rage all over again, "By 08:00 CET #gromsvotn #ashcloud to cover Scotland." In other words, expect massive plane delays, outright cancellations and another round of completely unexpected losses for airline carriers.

The most recent Metoffice forecast:

From Sky News, which does a bang up job of damage control.

Ash from the erupting Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland will cover Scotland and Ireland by early Tuesday morning, the Met Office has predicted.

Airlines and travellers were looking nervously at the progress of cloud as it headed towards Europe.

The Grimsvotn volcano began erupting on Saturday and forced Iceland to close its airports on Sunday.

The country's aviation authority said it hoped to reopen the main airport near the capital Reykjavik later today or tonight.

The only other country to be affected so far is Greenland, with air traffic officials confirming airspace was partly closed over the Arctic island.

Air Greenland said its Monday flight between the island's main airport and Copenhagen had been cancelled because of the ash.

European airlines have been warned to prepare for possible disruption to their own flight schedules by the end of the week.

Last year, ash from an explosion at the Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier forced the closure of European airspace for six days.

Some 10 million passengers were left stranded for days at airport lounges around the world following the eruption in April 2010.

The Grimsvotn ash cloud is currently spreading towards Norway but the Met Office has predicted it could arrive over Scotland by midday on Tuesday if the volcano continues erupting at the same intensity.

It is then expected to move south over Britain, reaching parts of France and Spain later in the week.

However, volcano experts and officials have stressed it was likely this ash cloud would not bring the misery of the last one.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has told Sky News airlines can decide to fly if it is determined the ash cloud poses a low risk by the Met Office.

Aircraft can fly in medium levels of ash if they have approval from their respective regulator, which is the CAA in the UK.

A CAA spokesperson said it was a very different situation from that of last year.

A new radar system in Iceland means the Met Office has a "far better model", which means planes can now be moved more expertly around UK airspace.

The spokesperson added that we also have a more realistic idea of the amount of ash a plane can cope with - but no engine manufacturer has yet done "significant testing" on volcanic ash.

The Government has also insisted this time round, it can deal with the situation.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said: "We've spent a lot of time and quite a bit of money putting in place the equipment that's necessary.

"[We've been] working with the airlines, the Civil Aviation Authority, the air traffic control people, so we do actually now have a system worked out.

"Using the additional information that we'll have from all this new equipment we can hopefully work with the airlines to enable them to fly safely around concentrations of ash, rather than having to impose a blanket closure."

While the Grimsvotn eruption has been more powerful than last year's, experts said this volcano's ash was coarser and falling to Earth more quickly.

University of Iceland geophysicist Pall Einarsson said: "It is not likely to be anything on the scale that was produced last year when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted.

"That was an unusual volcano, an unusual ash size distribution and unusual weather pattern, which all conspired together to make life difficult in Europe."

And as if the contracting French and Spanish economies needed any more bad news, according to the volcanic path prediction, they will be next to ground flights and suffer additional "one-time" economic damages.



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