Icelandic volcano eruptions continue

Reuters April 17, 2010

REYKJAVIK: An Icelandic volcano that is spewing ash into the air and wreaking havoc on flights across Europe appeared to be easing up on Saturday but could continue to erupt for days or even months to come, officials said.

Iceland's Meteorological Office said the cloud of ash above the volcano had shrunk to a height of 5 to 8 kilometers (3.125 to 5 miles) from 6 to 11 km (3.75 to 6.875 miles) when it started erupting earlier this week.

The office said that the volume of magma under the volcano appeared to be decreasing and that heavy pulsing earlier in the day had steadied and the volcano appeared less volatile.

"There are signs that the pressure is decreasing and that the eruption will be calmer," said Armann Hoskuldsson, a vulcanologist at the University of Iceland.

The eruption is taking place under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, normally a popular hiking ground about 120 km (75 miles) southeast of the capital Reykjavik.

However, Bergthora Thorbjarnardottir, a geophysicist at the Meteorological Office, said the steady eruptions did not necessarily mean the volcano was subsiding.

"The eruption could go on like that for a long time," she said. "Every volcano is different and we don't have much experience with this one -- it's been 200 years since it erupted last."

"We have to watch it carefully because they all behave differently. The last time it erupted it was off and on for over a year."

Large parts of Europe enforced no-fly rulings for a third day on Saturday as the plume floated through the upper atmosphere, carrying tiny particles of glass and pulverized rock that could pose dangers for jet engines and airframes.

The disruption is costing airlines more than $200 million a day, air industry officials have said.

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