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Volcano dormant, airspace free of ash

Bloomberg News / May 25, 2010

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LONDON — European airspace was ash-free for the first time in 40 days last night after the Icelandic volcano that has disrupted flights for millions of people fell silent.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Center at Britain’s national weather service, which supplies predictive maps to air-traffic controllers across the region, estimated that the last remaining plume of dust southeast of Iceland dissipated by 5 p.m. London time.

“Volcanic activity declined significantly over the weekend and has now virtually ceased,’’ said Dave Britton, a meteorologist. The eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano on April 14 grounded 100,000 flights in the first six days, costing airlines $1.7 billion in lost sales, according to industry figures. Further bursts of ash closed airspace across a wide swath of Europe, raising concern that the event might mirror the last one in 1821, when the crater remained active for more than a year.

Observations show that the volcano is now contracting, suggesting that the introduction of new lava has ceased, said Halldor Bjoernsson, a meteorologist at Iceland’s national weather service.

“There’s no lava flow and no ash flow, so we’re classifying it for now as dormant,’’ Bjoernsson said. “A lot of steam is still rising. Eruptions like this can flare up again, but for the moment there’s no indication of it doing that.’’