May 27, 2010

Second Icelandic Volcano Now A Potential Threat

According to experts, an Icelandic volcano neighboring Eyjafjoell, whose eruptions paralyzed Europe's skies last month, could come to life in the near future.

"An eruption in the short term is a strong possibility," experts said, referring to Katla, which is much larger than Eyjafjoell, in a report from the University College London (UCL) Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction.

The researchers said that Europe's skies were likely to be hit by further ash cloud shutdowns, following April's widespread closures and several smaller scale shutdowns since.

The report stated, "Future moderately to highly explosive Icelandic eruptions combined with appropriate weather conditions are highly likely to cause a repeat of the recent air transport disruption."

The Icelandic volcano started to erupt on April 14, and it spewed out an ash cloud that drifted over Europe.  Ash created many flight disruptions throughout the continent for several days.  This was the biggest airspace shutdown in Europe since World War II, affecting over 100,000 flights and eight million passengers.

UCL experts also criticized the response to the eruption.  The experts included scientists, engineers and statisticians.

"The severe disruption to European airspace in April from (the volcano's) ash clouds reflect a lack of integration between the monitoring, warning and risk management systems," Carina Fearnley, of UCL's hazard research centre, told AFP News.

A team of British researchers said in a second report released on Thursday that they had discovered a significant electrical charge in the ash plume.

The scientists, from the Institute of Physics, told AFP they found that "the ash plume which hovered over Scotland carried a significant and self-renewing electric charge."

They warned that the charge could pose a risk to both planes and passengers.

"Charged particles can cause aircraft radio interference and, if introduced into aircraft cabins, charged ash may present an electrostatic hazard to occupants or aircraft systems," said the report.

The scientists used a specialist weather balloon in order to conduct research on a section of the ash cloud.


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