Iceland Volcano Grímsvötn Eruption May 21st 2011

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Grímsvötn Volcano

A volcanic eruption that began May 21 under Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajokull, could threaten trans-Atlantic air traffic, with ash reaching the U.K. this week according to Iceland's weather office.

"If the eruption doesn't abate, the ash plume could reach the U.K. later this week," Haraldur Eiriksson, a meteorologist with Iceland's Met Office, said in a telephone interview. "According to our latest forecast, the cloud is expected to reach north Norway by noon" today.

Eurocontrol, which oversees Europe flight paths, said on its website yesterday afternoon that "there is currently no impact on European or trans-Atlantic flights, and the situation is expected to remain so for the next 24 hours."

A spokeswoman for the U.K.'s National Air Traffic Services Ltd. said last night that conditions are "very changeable."

"We're monitoring the situation very closely. We're not speculating at all," she said.

The eruption has already led to the closing of Iceland's main international airport in Keflavik, the second such disruption in 13 months to the island nation's air traffic. Icelandair Group hf (ICEAIR) said on its website it will cancel all European flights today, affecting 6,000 passengers.

The height of the ash plume has diminished to 10 kilometers (6.3 miles) from 20 kilometers on May 21, according to Eiriksson. Meteorologists are using a new weather radar system to monitor the development.

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