April 20, 2010

Icelandic Volcano Ash Output Decreasing

The volcanic eruption in Iceland that has crippled European air travel for days is now beginning to produce molten lava, meaning that less ash should be produced and raising hopes that the existing cloud that has forced flights to be grounded could finally start dispersing.

On April 19, commercial helicopter pilot Reynir Petursson told AFP reporter Sebastian Smith, "We saw the eruption changing from being explosions of ash"¦ It's the first day we saw lava. It's not flowing, but gushing." Furthermore, Bryndis Brandsdottir of the University of Iceland told the news service that the eruption had "diminished markedly" and that the ash column is less than half its original height.

"As long as (the ash) doesn't reach any higher than now, the biggest problems are probably over," Icelandic meteorologist Oli Arnasson told Smith on Monday, adding that winds could push some of the most recently produces ash could to the UK, but that the majority of the ash "will likely be falling out before it reaches Europe."

The eruptions, which began last Wednesday at a volcano located below the ice caps of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, have also dumped a blanked of ash in the area south of Iceland's capital of Reykjavik. Dr. Peter Baxter of Cambridge University told AP Science Writer Malcolm Ritter that there shouldn't be enough ash to cause health problems, but the World Health Organization is warning that it could nonetheless cause problems for anyone who is suffering from chronic respiratory conditions like asthma, emphysema or bronchitis.

Ritter asked Jeff Osiensky, the volcano ash program manager for the National Weather Service, whether or not there was a possibility that the eruption could affect the U.S. or other parts of North America. "At the current time we're not expecting that," Osiensky replied, adding that the "likelihood of any ash even reaching into far eastern Canada is pretty unlikely at this point."


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