Volcanic ash approaches North Sea coast

German aviation authorities are implementing special supervision of flights as a cloud of volcanic ash is expected to reach the North Sea coast late on Tuesday.

Volcanic ash approaches North Sea coast
Photo: DPA

Fears of horrendous transport problems as caused by an Icelandic volcano last were inevitably raised by the confirmation from the German Weather Service (DWD) that the ash was heading for Germany.

And with ash concentration likely to rise to between 0.2 and 2.0 milligrams per cubic metre, flights in the region will require special supervision by air traffic authorities.

German officials said on Monday they saw no danger of major disruptions to air travel at present, but announced new rules to help avert the chaos caused by a previous eruption in 2010.

Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer said the new rules included a ban on non-emergency flights if the concentration of volcanic ash is more than 2.0 milligrams per cubic metre.

“A recent study has shown once again how harmful volcanic ash particles can be for aircraft and their engines,” Ramsauer said in a statement. “With our measures in place, Germany is well prepared. But an internationally-agreed and uniform approach within the European Union remains necessary.”

Iceland’s airspace, which was closed shortly after the volcano began spewing ash at the weekend, was partially reopened Monday but the main Keflavik airport, near the capital Reykjavik, remained closed, officials said.

A number of airlines cancelled flights in and out of Scotland on Tuesday, while US President Barack Obama left Ireland for London ten hours early to avoid any possible delays due to the ash.

But meteorologists do not expect the situation to become as bad as last year, when the eruption of the Eyjafjoell volcano caused more than 100,000 flight cancellations.

Some eight million passengers were stranded for weeks, dealing a harsh blow to the airline industry, particularly in Europe.

DPA/AFP/The Local/mry

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Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.