News / Europe

Icelandic Volcano Impacts Economy, Industry, Environment

David Byrd

Millions of passengers have been stranded after a huge ash cloud spread from an Icelandic volcano toward Europe since Wednesday, April 14.  Volcanic ash presents a particular challenge not only to airline passengers, but also to the travel industry, and the countries affected by the plume.

Air traffic controllers in Europe canceled more than 16,000 flights Friday because of the huge plume of ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. The cloud drifted toward Europe and is predicted to cover as far north as northern Italy, Britain, the Scandinavian countries, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Switzerland.

The canceled flights are costing the airlines an estimated $200 million per day, and passengers are stranded at major airports including Frankfurt, London, and Rome.

Bill Miller is a Senior Vice President with CheapOair travel company, and he told VOA that the $200 million is a conservative estimate and the impact could be felt industry wide.

"Certainly at Heathrow British Airways has a very large presence, as do a lot of North-American based carriers.  And in Frankfurt you've got Lufthansa that has a massive operation there. Europe is unique in that they have a lot of low-cost carriers. You've got Easy Jet operating out of Luton airport in London.  Some other low-cost carriers throughout Europe. You know, there's like 30,000 flights a day in Europe and I believe about half of them have been canceled as of today," he said.

The ash cloud even trapped Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who was stuck in New York after his flight home was canceled.  Mr. Stoltenberg used his Apple iPad electronic device to run his government while he made his way home.  

The difficulty with volcanic ash is that it is more like small particles of glass rather than the ash left over from a fire.  The pumice and other minerals can severely damage aircraft engines, control surfaces and navigation equipment.  

Bill Burton is a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey based outside Washington.  He told VOA that volcanic ash is uniquely destructive to aircraft. "It's like sandblasting your aircraft if you fly in the middle of it.  So millions of tiny hard pieces are flying into your jet engine.  And they are abrading the engine and any forward facing surfaces including windshields. The silica in the ash can also melt and then re-solidify within the engine so you can actually coat  the parts of your jet engine.  And all of those things can be disastrous," he said.

In 1989, a KLM airlines 747 with 231 passengers aboard lost power to all four of its engines after flying through an ash cloud from the Redoubt Volcano in Alaska.  The plane plunged from 27,000 to 13,000 feet before the pilots were able to re-start the engines and finish the flight to Anchorage Alaska.

And volcanic ash also can be toxic to humans, animals and plant life - not only from inhaling the particulates, but as Bill Burton said, from acid rain caused by the sulfur in the ash. "One of the main constituents of the (volcanic) gases is sulfur. And that comes out and oxidizes into sulfur dioxide and that combines with water to form sulfuric acid droplets. And those droplets can then be the source of acid rain. They also can block the sunlight to contribute to climate change, climate cooling in this case," he said.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in London says that the high atmospheric pressure over the Atlantic is dictating that the wind strengths and the cloud will stay in northern Europe.  However, should the pressure change, the cloud could move more toward the Mediterranean.

Bill Miller of CheapOair says that many airlines are keeping travelers informed.  But he said travelers need to be patient. "It's a volcano, so nobody can really accurately predict what is going to happen. How long it is going to take.  There are some airports that are already shut down all the way through Monday (April, 19).  So I think the traveling public needs to make sure that they are aware of what communications channels to stay tuned into," he said.

Miller told VOA that some insurers are covering the tickets for canceled flights.   And while airlines are losing millions of dollars to lost tickets, Miller said they are also not spending money for fuel, flight crews, and other expenses.  While that is small comfort for stranded travelers, for now, there is nothing to do but wait.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs