The volcanic eruption in Iceland that has forced UK airports to close could last anything from hours to months, according to volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer.
The University of Cambridge-based professor said the situation was “pretty uncertain” at the moment as experts are busy trying to ascertain more about the possible scope of the eruption.
He told Travel Weekly that the last time this volcano erupted, in the early 19th century, it lasted for a year and a half.
“Once an eruption has started it is almost impossible to predict how long it might last,” he said.
“The initial eruption actually started three weeks ago after the inflation of the volcano had been picked up.
“Yesterday, it moved to the summit and became more explosive, creating these ash clouds that nobody could really have anticipated.
“Depending on the intensity, the ash clouds could stop being a problem even if the eruption continues.”
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Oppenheimer explained that the reason planes cannot fly through ash is that the temperature of the engines turns it back into magma.
“Airlines are very precautionary when it comes to ash as it can have a devastating impact on aircraft,” he added.
“Once the eruption ends the ash should fall within a matter of hours but this is a huge event because of the volume of north Atlantic traffic.”
Oppenheimer said the last time an eruption had this much impact on the aviation industry was in the early 1990s in Alaska when ash clouds moved south across the US border.