Ash Plume, Iceland - May 11th, 2010
Close-up of Plume and Volcano
Airlines canceled hundreds of flights across Europe and added hours to trans-Atlantic journeys once again Sunday as planes were diverted around a large plume of ash spewed by the Eyjafjallajokul volcano in Iceland that stretched from Greenland to Portugal.
So far, the weekend cancellations have been a fraction of the flights nixed two weeks ago when jittery European air traffic authorities closed down much of the continent’s airspace for fear the volcano’s abrasive ash could harm jet engines. But the possibility loomed of continuing eruption, and rising costs to airlines from ongoing disruption.
The bulk of the cloud, measuring 2,100 miles long and 1,400 miles wide (3,400 kilometers by 2,200 kilometers), stretched over the North Atlantic, according to the Irish Aviation Authority. It ordered Ireland’s five westernmost airports to close Sunday afternoon but allowed the country’s three biggest airports in Dublin, Shannon and Cork to stay open.
Airlines diverted their trans-Atlantic traffic north and south of the cloud, causing congestion as planes tried to squeeze through remaining routes. Some connections were canceled entirely because of an offshoot of the main cloud that was snaking its way from Portugal through Spain, southern France and northern Italy, then up to Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria.
Daniel Gerstgrasser, a meteorologist with Switzerland’s national weather agency, said rain would help wash out the cloud by Monday morning and no further ash drifts were expected to reach the continent in the coming 24 hours, although this image, taken today, clearly shows ash still being expelled from the volcano.