The ash cloud today covers much of Iceland and stretches southeast over the Faeroe Islands and the northern tip of Scotland. A second ash cloud covers Northern Ireland. A third ash cloud covers south-central England, including London, affecting flights out of Heathrow and Gatwick airports. These two airports are open today but airlines are working through the delays caused by an overnight shutdown.
“During the course of the day, the current cloud is expected to disperse somewhat. By 14.00 CET [7 a.m. in New York City], the cloud is expected to mainly affect Northern Ireland, parts of Scotland and parts of south-west UK,” flight monitor Eurocontrol announced in a press release. Here’s the latest map (pdf) of the ash cloud between 0 and 20,000 feet elevation.
Eurocontrol said it expected about 28,000 flights today, which is about 1,000 less than normal. The ash cloud caused about 400 flight cancellations Sunday.
"Please, PLEASE be nice, Ash Cloud. I'd love to make it home tomorrow," EllenQB wrote on her Twitter wall.
Aside from nature’s impact on flights, a British Airways strike expected to begin tomorrow also has airline passengers worried about cancellations. The airline’s 12,000 flight attendants are expected to strike for five days, starting tonight at midnight.
The ash cloud today covering Ireland and the United Kingdom was likely spewed weeks ago from Eyjafjallajokul (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl), which has continuously erupted since April 14 after nearly 200 years dormancy. Last week, the ash condensed into a huge, Europe-sized cloud that lingered off the coast of Spain and North Africa, delaying thousands of flights and closing airports on two continents.
While the ash cloud’s size and density varies hourly according to weather conditions, the source of the ash – Eyjafjallajokul volcano – has remained fairly stable over the past several weeks.
According to the May 16 report (pdf) from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and Institute of Earth Sciences, which are monitoring the volcano, “Presently there are no indications that the eruption is about to end.”