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Tuesday
May042010

The spread of volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajökull over time

The BBC online posted a fascinating series of graphics showing the geographical and geological extent of the chaos wrought in mid to late April 2010, by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano called Eyjafjallajökull.  This eruption, which actually began in late March, notoriously shut down air travel all over Europe and trans-Atlantic flights, stranding air travelers for days on both sides of the pond.

Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull caused rare electrical storms (lightning caused solely by volcanic ash and without accompanying rainfall), one stunning photograph of which was posted by the BBC.  According to drawings by experts, the ash settled at about 20,000-30,000 feet above sea level, much lower than the cruise altitudes of many commercial airliners.  But the effect on an aircraft of having flown through the ash cloud at all were deemed too great to allow flight through those altitudes, even though the ash may have been diluted sufficiently at the intended cruise altitude of most commercial flights (35,000-41,000 feet).  The presence of volcanic ash has a severely detrimental effect on the cooling system of an airplane, among many other negative consequences.  Satellite photographs of the region affected, and graphs showing how many flights over European airspace were cancelled due to the eruption are also included in the slideshow.

The International Air Transport Association has estimated that the eruption of Ejyafjallajökull has cost the airline industry roughly 1.29 billion Euros (1.7 billion USD, 1.12 billion GBP).  The chief of the IATA called on the governments of European countries where airlines have been affected, to assist the airlines financially.  Almost 100% of the regularly-scheduled air traffic in Europe is expected to fly on Thursday.

graphical presentation posted by the BBC online

original story (BBC)

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