Volcanic Ash Eruption Grounds Flights Across Europe

BY Margaret Warner  April 15, 2010 at 12:21 PM EDT

A giant cloud of ash spewing from a volcano in Iceland has shutdown airports across much of Europe on Thursday, stranding tens of thousands of passengers across the continent in the broadest suspension of air travel since the 2001 terror attacks.

In Britain, aviation officials announced the country’s airspace would remain closed at least until Friday morning, while France grounded flights at 24 airports, including major hubs serving Paris. Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland also moved to suspend flights.

The volcanic ash from the eruption last weekend at Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano is reported to be drifting about 18,000 to 33,000 feet above the earth, well within the cruising altitudes of most commercial flights.

As the Associated Press points out:

“The volcano’s smoke and ash poses a threat to aircraft because it can affect visibility, and microscopic debris can get sucked into airplane engines and can cause them to shut down. The plume, which rose to between 20,000 feet and 36,000 feet, lies above the Atlantic Ocean close to the flight paths for most routes from the U.S. east coast to Europe.”

The AP has also posted this raw video of the ash cloud: