Europe prepares for new Icelandic ash cloud chaos

Europe’s airports are on high alert for a shutdown this week as another ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano moves across the region.

In a repeat of events in April last year when ash and smoke from the Eyjafjallajökull closed airspace across Europe for six days, Iceland’s most active volcano erupted on Saturday, sending a column of smoke 20km high.

The cloud of debris from the Grimsvotn volcano is now spreading across the region and looks set to shut down airports in northern countries.

Ash from the volcano could touch northwest Scotland as early as Monday evening, an Icelandic Met Official has said.

Europe's air traffic control organisation has said that if volcanic emissions continue at the same rate, the cloud might reach west French airspace and north Spain on Thursday.

No closures outside Iceland are expected today or tomorrow – but wind direction and the response of different countries’ aviation authorities to ash in the atmosphere could change this.

Last year, airspace had to be closed due to worries that particles could get into aircraft engines and cause accidents. Some airlines complained that authorities had been excessively cautious in imposing blanket closures last year.

Norway's civil aviation body said the one or two flights a day to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard would shut tonight, and other countries were also preparing for the worst.