Some flights cancelled due to Iceland volcano

In our earlier coverage on the subject, we reported from a Xinhua story that:

But scientists in Iceland believed that the new eruption in Grimsvotn could be small and would not lead to a repeat of the air travel chaos in Europe one year ago, which was caused by ashes from the Eyjafjallajokul volcano’s eruption.

So far, the travel chaos has not been repeated, with just 36 flights in one carrier cancelled so far:

Click screencap above for story. Here’s the latest on the eruption, including a satellite image from MODIS:

via the Icelandic Met Office

Ash plume and lightnings

Flash flood unlikely

The eruption in Grímsvötn began after 17:30 on Saturday May 21st (see photos). The altitude of the plume is monitored by two weather radars, one located in Keflavík International Airport 220 km from the volcano, and a mobile one currently situated approx. 80 km away from the volcano.

Initially the plume reached approx. 20 km altitude but during the night it fell to 15 km, occasionally rising to 20 km.  During the morning of the 22nd the plume was lower still, or at around 10 km in altitude, rising occasionally to 15 km.

Lightning is monitored using the British Met. Office lightning detection system. Lightning activity follows a similar pattern as the plume altitude with intermittent periods of strong lightning activity.  During the most intense lightning period the number of lightnings per hour were 1000 times more than during the Eyjafjallajokull Eruption.

The Grímsvötn volcano is Iceland‘s most active volcano. It last erupted in 2004 and the current eruption is in a similar location. Flash floods south of the volcano often occur associated with eruptions, but can also happen in between eruptions. The latest such flood occurred in October 2010, so a big flood currently appears unlikely.

The MODIS satellite picture taken around 5 o’clock this morning shows the plume; at sunrise the plume casts a dark shadow to the west:


For flight traffic concern, please consult London VAAC, the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.

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Douglas DC
May 23, 2011 10:10 am

Different ash type from what various sites say ,not as fine. may not last as long either…

May 23, 2011 10:23 am

Oh no…..melting glaciers…..eeek…./sarc

May 23, 2011 10:32 am

What is the significance of the numbers of lightnings per hour being 1000 times more than during the Eyjafjallajokull Eruption?

May 23, 2011 10:57 am

No. Overall yes the ash is coarser, but according to the BGS the eruption is so large that a lot of fine ash is being produced aswell

May 23, 2011 11:05 am

“Ash might not last as long” = get your brushes ready!

Harold Ambler
May 23, 2011 11:31 am

Two years in a row, an Icelandic volcano has forced POTUS to change his flying itinerary:

Tommy Roche
May 23, 2011 11:48 am

President Obama is in Ireland at the moment and was due to stay overnight, but it seems he may be leaving for london this evening due to fears the ash may hinder his travel plans tomorrow.

May 23, 2011 12:31 pm

UK news report (6.30pm BST)that the amount of material being expelled is 100 times greater than that of last year’s episode

Al Gored
May 23, 2011 3:50 pm

Last night on CNBC’s EuroSquawkbox the quick witted and not PC CEO of RyanAir said some absolutely brutal and funny things about… and I’m paraphrasing from memory here… the idiots in the basement at the Met Office etc., etc., etc.
And that you don’t need those idiots to tell you not to fly through a plume rising from a volcano.
Incredibly blunt and beautiful.

May 23, 2011 4:35 pm
May 23, 2011 4:41 pm

Airline stocks going down, oil going down… might be a profitable buy in the future after things get better. But be prepared not to go long.

May 23, 2011 5:26 pm

Thanks Clype.
Fingers crossed. Still looking OK for a landing in Brussels on Thursday morning.
I hope London’s OK. There must be thousands flying in for the Champions League Final on Saturday, but then I guess they’ve got the Chunnel/ferry options too.

Brian Johnson uk
May 23, 2011 11:12 pm

How on earth do Iceland operate any commercial flights with all this dust/volcanoes filling the skies with pollution [none of it man made]? Do Icelandair and Iceland Express have a secret they won’t share with their neighbours? Once again the UK Media have scare stories on the go.
Also once again in the UK and Europe it is computer models that are being used to decide if flights are viable or not. The last time that happened mass hysteria took over and nearly all flights were needlessly grounded. At least this time it airlines who will make the decisions not paper pushing Eurocrats.

Fresh air
May 24, 2011 1:37 am

Flight cancellations may currently be limited to the north of the UK, but if the northerly/north-westerly wind possible from the projected position of the jetstream is correct, Friday could see flights grounded across the whole of the UK.

Brian H
May 24, 2011 2:05 am

I think at least this time they’re using radar. Last time it was all flying razor-edged digital bits. Actual planes couldn’t find it.

John Marshall
May 24, 2011 3:24 am

This eruption is larger than that of the unpronounceable volcano last year and the local volcanologists think it may not erupt for very long. Since very little history is available about previous eruptions this may be a bit of a leap of faith. The ash particles are certainly larger than last year so the expectation is that the plume will not be long lived.
The main problem is the flying and whether ash concentrations are below the permitted maximum. This, of course, needs flying into the cloud to measure the particle density.

May 24, 2011 4:43 am

In one sense this is less significant than last year because this one is the most active on Iceland. In another sense it is more significant because it is causing flight cancellations.
Here is what I mean… with the flight cancellations last year it was like, Hey look, this is the first time the volcano went off in 400 years. It probably did the same thing back then but we didn’t have airplanes last time!
With this one, it’s like, hey, this one went off several times in the last century… I don’t recall it canceling any flights on any of those, although I could certainly be wrong. Is this really new? Does it have anything to do with solar minimum? Melting ice caps? (Sarcastic on the last one. But it makes me think.)

Jim Turner
May 24, 2011 5:57 am

According to one news report, Grimsvotn erupts about every five years, but this is the first time that it has disrupted air travel in my lifetime as far as I can recall, what’s changed?
ps. According to the Smithsonian website, it underwent ‘explosive eruptions’ in 2004, 1998, 1996, 1983, 1954, 1938, 1934, 1933, 1922, etc.

Alan the Brit
May 24, 2011 8:13 am

And then there is this:-
No news there then. As pointed it’s puter models doing all the driving, & as Professor John Mitchell of the Wet Office said recently, “Observations aren’t very helpful”!!!!!! Perhaps that’s because they show the models in a bad light?

May 24, 2011 8:38 am

“Jim Turner says:
May 24, 2011 at 5:57 am
According to one news report, Grimsvotn erupts about every five years, but this is the first time that it has disrupted air travel in my lifetime as far as I can recall, what’s changed?
ps. According to the Smithsonian website, it underwent ‘explosive eruptions’ in 2004, 1998, 1996, 1983, 1954, 1938, 1934, 1933, 1922, etc.”
Because this is the most powerful eruption of Grimsvotn in 100 years

May 24, 2011 2:26 pm

I find it curious how yet another volcanic activity is transpiring on that same area of the world again, but it is affecting so much more than just that area. Perhaps there is indeed something bigger happening. The geek in me couldn’t help but think how we could use the Hulk to hold the planet together much like in the comic books.

Robert Christopher
May 26, 2011 6:06 am

Fantastic News !!!!!
A solution has been found to the problem of the volcanic ash cloud drifting over from Iceland:

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