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article imageNo end in sight to Icelandic ash chaos

By Miriam Mannak     Apr 17, 2010 in World
As the activity of the volcano under Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier is increasing, scientists have warned that the chaos caused by the clouds of volcano ash are here to stay for a while.
"The activity has been quite vigorous overnight, causing the eruption column to grow," Icelandic geologist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson told The Associated Press this weekend. "It's the magma mixing with the water that creates the explosivity. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight."
The ash clouds that have dominated the world's media for the past weeks are caused due to the fact that the situated underneath a glacier. Because of the massive temperature differences between the magma and the ice, the first cools down too quickly. This causes explosions and plumes of grit and ash.
These clouds pose a serious threat people's health and to aviation. Health wise, the ash when is dangerous when inhaled. First of all it contains small particles of pulverized rock and glass which can have long lasting health consequences. "We're very concerned about it," said spokesman David Epstein, as quoted by CBS news. "These particles when inhaled can reach the peripheral regions of ... the lungs and can cause problems - especially for people with asthma or respiratory problems."
Although the ash clouds did not pose a serious problem at first, simply because they were too high, they seem to be settling. "When they do settle ... we would recommend that people stay indoors as much as possible," Epstein added.
Secondly, the clouds are detrimental to air travel. Not only do they reduce visibility, they can also cause damage to flight controls and ultimately this may result in jet engines to fail. Another problem with ash clouds is that they are difficult to distinguish from ordinary clouds, both visually and on radar.
The scale of the European aerospace disruption is enormous. In Europe, 16 000 of Saturday's 22 000 flights to elsewhere in the world have been canceled.
In the rest of the world various airlines such as South African Airlines have put flights to Europe on hold until the ash clouds have subsided. In Asia, thousands of travelers were left stranded after dozens of flights to Europe were called off.
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