The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Iceland

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano sent a plume of ash and steam across the North Atlantic in mid-April 2010, prompting authorities in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany and Scandinavia to close airspace over their countries.

The airspace closure has had a ripple effect, disrupting flights to and from other countries as well. Authorities could not say how long the airspace closure would last, and the ash’s spread threatened to force closures of additional airspace over the coming days.

Unlike the soft, fluffy material that results from burned vegetation, volcanic ash consists of tiny jagged particles of rock. Once sucked into an airplane’s turbines, the abrasive material can easily cause engine failure, but an aircraft’s weather radar can’t spot the ash.

Eyjafjallajökull (or Eyjafjöll) is a stratovolcano composed of alternating layers of ash, lava, and rocks ejected by earlier eruptions. This volcano rises to a height of 1,666 meters (5,466 feet) above sea level. It began erupting for the first time in 190 years on March 20, 2010. The eruption opened a 500-meter (2,000-foot) fissure, and also produced lava fountains that built several hills of bubble-filled lava rocks (scoria) along the vent.

British navy ship drafted.
On 19 April 2010, three Royal Navy ships will be drafted to help return Britons stranded abroad as UK airspace remains restricted.

The UK’s emergency committee Cobra met to discuss options in addressing travel chaos caused by a volcanic ash cloud and will hold more discussions later.

Airline compensation

British Airways has said it has asked the European Union and the UK government for financial compensation for the closure of airspace. BA also said that its test flight through the no-fly zone had revealed “no variations in the aircraft’s normal operational performance”. The airline estimates that the crisis is costing it about £15m to £20m a day.

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