25 May 2011

Ash cloud lifts but expected to return

Flights across the UK have resumed after the volcanic ash cloud moves out of British airspace – but forecasters predict it could return on Friday.


Around 500 flights were grounded on Tuesday as ash from the Grimsvotn volcano was carried across northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In its most recent update, air traffic control company National Air Traffic Services (Nats) confirmed that it would be safe to fly in UK airspace on Wednesday morning.

“Latest information from the Met Office shows that following the recent eruption of Grimsvotn in Iceland, no volcanic ash is currently predicted in airspace over the UK from 0100 UK time on Wednesday May 25,” Nats confirmed.

A Met Office spokesman said the ash was likely to clear northern parts of the UK by early today, but it might return to affect much of the country on Friday.

Forecasters say that if eruptions from the Grimsvotn volcano continues at “current variables”, all areas with the exception of East Anglia and south west England might be affected by ash, with the potential to disrupt flights.

On Friday, at between 35,000 and 55,000ft, there could be a risk of a high concentration of ash covering most of the UK,” a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, German authorities have warned that Berlin airport could be closed from 11am.

In pictures: Icelandic ash cloud

Scheduled take-offs and landings have been cancelled at Bremen and Hamburg airports in the north of the country

The ash cloud caused minor air traffic disruption in Norway and closed a small part of Denmark’s airspace on Tuesday.

Eurocontrol, Europe’s air traffic control hub, warned there was a “strong possibility” that it would spread to southwest Sweden by Wednesday

Read more: Science Correspondent Tom Clarke reports from Iceland

“This would have some impact on flights. However, given the new procedures in place and the predicted movement of the ash cloud over the coming days, the actual impact on flights is expected to be relatively low,” Eurocontrol said.

European Union Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas played down fears that the situation could get as bad as in 2010, when thousands of travellers from around the world were left stranded.

“We do not at this stage anticipate widespread airspace closure and prolonged disruption like we saw last year,” Kallas told a news conference.