Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ash cloud closes Moroccan airports

The ash is back. Fresh volcanic activity under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland has resulted in a fresh ash plume being pushed about 5.5km (18,000ft) into the air.

a new ash plume at the weekend

Airspace over Europe was closed down for six days last month because of fears of the effect of volcanic ash on aircrafts' engines.

The latest plume was the result of a fresh pulse of meltwater and ice from the surrounding glacier entering the volcano, explained Haraldur Olafsson, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Iceland.

"Greater quantities of fine grain ash have been ejected from the volcano", explained Olafsson, similar similar to the events that generated April's massive ash cloud that spread across much of Europe.

"In the early phase of the eruption, there was a lot of meltwater and ice, which contributed to the explosions, which in turn contributed to a lot of solid material being pushed very far up into the atmosphere."

He added that there was still a lot of meltwater that could cause further plumes to be pushed into the atmosphere.

"It is not finished yet. Sooner or later, this is going to stop, but this is not imminent." Scores of UK air passengers are facing further disruption from a volcanic ash cloud that has halted European flights.

In Morocco, the airports at Tangier and Rabat have been closed. Passengers headed to Marrakech should check updated information before travelling to the airport.

British airports remain open, but both Ryanair and Easyjet said they had been forced to cancel dozens of flights.

Ryanair said it had cancelled flights to and from the Canary Islands, Faro and Madrid. Flights to and from Granada, Jerez, Malaga and Seville also been cancelled.

Easyjet spokesman Andrew McConnell said the "vast majority" of its flights were operating normally.

British airports operator BAA has also warned of delays to transatlantic services and cancellations by airlines.

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