Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Iceland's Volcano Snarls European Air Traffic

No one could say its name (Eyjafjallajokull), but everyone knew about its ash plume. The Icelandic volcano that erupted on April 14 had been dormant for almost two centuries. But it quickly made up for lost time, unleashing fountains of fire, incredible lava flows and a smoke plume that rose 36,000 ft. (11,000 m) into the sky — right into the path of oncoming airplanes. Two days later, because of prevailing winds that blew the smoke eastward, most of Europe's major airports were closed, delaying or canceling thousands of flights. The plume hovered above northern and central Europe for days, making it the worst peacetime air-travel disruption in history.