Grimsvotn Volcano Eruption Forces Barack Obama to Leave Ireland Early


An Icelandic volcano called Grimsvotn (so much easier to say than that other Icelandic volcano) about 120 miles east of Reykjavik has been erupting since Saturday, with ash now approaching Scotland and Ireland, where Barack Obama and Co. are visiting. This means they’ll leave Ireland tonight, a day ahead of schedule. Fortunately, Obama and the First Lady have already enjoyed a Guinness. Obama also kissed babies, visited the spot where the home of his maternal great-great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, once stood in the village of Moneygall, got stuck in a driveway, met with Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, and accepted “a hurley, a long, paddle-shaped stick used in the Irish sport of hurling, as a gift,” reports the New York Post. Good times!

As for other people hoping to travel…Iceland’s main airport was shut down on Saturday and remains closed, and Loganair has canceled 36 flights tomorrow. But, in comparison to the Eyjafjalloajokull eruption, which resulted in the shutting down of large portions of European airspace and leaving folks stranded for some 5 days, Grimsvotn has not so far required a massive closure of airspace. Instead, airlines that want to fly “would simply need to present a safety report to aviation authorities” after being given information about ash cloud density and location. Authorities say that the Eyjafjalloajokull shutdowns were an overreaction, and also that new arrangements in place make aviation better prepared for things like ash clouds. Grimsvotn’s ash is apparently also coarser than Eyjafjallajokul’s, which may be a factor in how it travels.

Still, via the Telegraph,

“We can’t rule out disruption,” said Andrew Haines, the Civil Aviation Authority’s chief executive.

And Professor Gillian Foulger, Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University, said: “This eruption is bigger and more spectacular than the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Its gigantic initial volcanic plume (20 km high) suggests that it may exhaust itself and cease quicker than the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, but only time will tell.”

Here’s a satellite image of the volcano from space, released by NASA.

Updated: Additional Tuesday-morning flight cancellations include British Airways, which has suspended flights between London and Scotland, and KLM and Easyjet, which have canceled flights to and from Scotland and northern England. Two domestic airlines also announced flight disruptions, according to the AP.