Disasters & Extreme Weather

Published on May 24th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

Iceland Volcano Causes Flights of Thousands to be Cancelled

flights grounded at london heathrow airport from iceland grimsvotn volcanic ash

Despite the news yesterday that, due to improved volcanic ash safety regulations and differences in the weight of volcanic ash from Grimsvotn compared to Eyjafjallajökull, flight cancellations and disruptions from the Iceland volcano Gromsvotn were likely to be minimal, it seems that the volcano is affecting flights in Europe now.

“Thousands of UK air passengers face flight cancellations as the Icelandic ash cloud closed in on Britain, threatening serious disruption to schedules,” the Guardian reports.

“Travel plans were thrown into disarray for passengers at airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland, while even the US president, Barack Obama, was forced to amend his itinerary, flying into London earlier than planned to avoid the dense plume drifting towards the UK.”

And the Barcelona football team’s travel plans to London for the upcoming Champion’s League final against Manchester United have also been changed, having to wait for weather forecasts to determine when it will be headed that way.

So far, 252 flights have been cancelled today. Up to 500 flights are expected to be cancelled by the end of the day. London Heathrow has 30,000 flights a day, though, so the effect of this volcano is still minimal. Eyjafjallajokull caused approximately 100,000 flights to be grounded last year.

Improvements Allow Airplanes to Fly in Higher Levels of Volcanic Ash, but Doesn’t Mean Any Ash

While improvements have made it significantly easier to ensure adequate safety while not grounding flights, the fact of the matter is that volcanoes are volcanoes and can create difficulties for air transport. And, experts think that volcanic activity may be greater in coming years than we’re used to.

“My understanding is that we have gone through an unusually quiet period for volcanic eruptions in Iceland over the last 20-odd years and we are moving into a period when there is likely to be significantly more volcanic activity,” transport secretary, Philip Hammond, said on Monday. “So this is clearly something we have got to learn to plan around. We have got to learn to live with it.”

For more on flight cancellations due to Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano, check out the Guardian’s piece: Volcanic ash cloud: thousands face flight delays and cancellations.

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Photo via James Cridland

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009.

Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity.

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