News / Europe

Icelandic Volcano Impacts Economy, Industry, Environment

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid