Iceland Reopens Bardarbunga Volcano Airspace


Iceland reopened the airspace over the Bardarbunga volcano system Friday afternoon, lowering a red alert to aviation declared earlier following an overnight eruption.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office, charged with monitoring volcanic activity, said it had lowered the alert level to orange, meaning flights could pass over the area.

While Bardarbunga, located under Europe's largest glacier, had not yet started spewing ash as of early Friday afternoon, the release of a massive cloud remained a possible scenario with potentially dire consequences for aviation.

The civil protection office said the eruption began in the Holuhraun lava field just after midnight (0000 GMT) and had created a volcanic fissure of up to one kilometer (over half a mile) long.

The authority said it was an "effusive eruption without significant explosive activity", meaning the lava flow was mostly on the surface of the volcano and that there was little "airborne ash material".

Friday was the second time in less than a week that Icelandic authorities issued a red alert to aviation but then lowered the level to orange soon after.

On August 23 the level was raised when scientists suspected an eruption and lowered again to orange the next day when no evidence was found.

Bardarbunga, in the southeast of the country, is Iceland's second-highest peak, and is believed to have the potential to cause serious disruptions to air traffic if there is a major eruption.

The eruption of Eyjafjoell, a smaller volcano, in April 2010 caused travel mayhem, in the region's widest airspace shutdown since World War II.

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