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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid