UN Assisting Efforts to Monitor Spread of Ash from Icelandic Volcano’s Eruption

24 May 2011 – Members of a United Nations network of volcanic ash advisory centres around the world are monitoring a volcano in Iceland that has erupted and spewed ash high into the air, disrupting airline travel over parts of Europe.
The Grímsvötn volcano in south-eastern Iceland, which began erupting on Saturday, has ejected ash to a height of at least 10 kilometres, according to Clare Nullis, a spokesperson for the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Nine volcanic ash advisory centres – set up by WMO, the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics – are providing meteorological information as part of a global volcano watch system, she said.

The lead centre for this eruption is based in the United Kingdom, and is responsible for monitoring and reporting the spread of ash over the UK, Iceland and the north-eastern part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ms. Nullis said the advisory centre is also providing forecasts about where and how the ash plume from Grímsvötn might spread in the days ahead, depending on weather patterns and the length of the volcano’s eruption.

The information being provided should help officials make decisions on transport and other areas of planning, WMO said.

Several hundred flights have already been cancelled due to the ash, but some scientific experts have predicted that the impact will be less severe than the April 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which closed much of European air space for days.

The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) has previously called on European governments to integrate volcano risk into their air travel policies and laws.