Posts Tagged ‘Astronomy

06
Jul
10

Europe’s ‘Big Bang’ probe sends back first image of cosmos

NEWS
Europe’s ‘Big Bang’ probe sends back first image of cosmos

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Science

••• A space telescope designed to peer into the enigma of the ‘Big Bang’ has served up its first overall image of the cosmos, the European Space Agency says.

The picture ‘is an extraordinary treasure chest of new data for astronomers,’ ESA declared on Monday.

The image was painstakingly built up, slice by slice, by a $875 million (700 million euros) telescope, Planck, which ESA put in orbit in May last year.

Planck is designed to look at radiation in the microwave part of the energy spectrum.

Microwave signatures point to the birth and death of stars and galaxies, as well as the embers of the ‘Big Bang’ which, according to theory, brought the Universe into existence 13.7 billion years ago.

This primeval energy, known as cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR), washes across the sky.

But in order to spot it in Planck’s first ‘all-sky’ image, scientists will have to filter out background noise from our own galaxy, the Milky Way, ESA said.
‘We are opening the door to an Eldorado where scientists can seek the nuggets that will lead to deeper understanding of how our Universe came to be and how it works now,’ said David Southwood, ESA’s director of science and robotic exploration.

‘The image itself and its remarkable quality is a tribute to the engineers who built and have operated Planck. Now the scientific harvest must begin.’

Named after the 20th century German physicist Max Planck who founded quantum theory, the mission is equipped with a 4.8 feet telescope that focuses radiation onto two arrays of microwave detectors, each cooled to almost absolute zero.

By the end of its mission in 2012, Planck should have completed four all-sky scans, ESA said. The data release of the CMBR – in essence a map of the Big Bang – is also scheduled for 2012.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): European Space Agency (ESA)
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18
Jun
10

Tornadoes Rip Through Minnesota, Killing 3

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Tornadoes Rip Through Minnesota, Killing 3

Friday, June 18, 2010

Earth

••• An emergency official says a third death has been confirmed in a series of tornadoes that tore through Minnesota.

Freeborn County’s Emergency Management Director Mark Roche says one person was killed at a farm in southern Minnesota when the tornadoes struck Thursday night.

Roche estimates that up to nine tornadoes churned along a 18- to 20-miles path in rural parts of the county.

He says the tornadoes damaged 40 to 60 farms, but spared communities.

An elderly woman was killed when a twister wiped out her home near Almora in Otter Tail County, in northwestern Minnesota.

Farther north, officials say a man was killed when a tornado destroyed a gas station.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): National Weather Service
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07
Jun
10

Seven dead as tornadoes rip through Midwest

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Seven dead as tornadoes rip through Midwest

Monday, June 7, 2010

Earth

••• Tornados and thunderstorms swept through Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.

Dozens of homes were destroyed and a nuclear power plant had to be shut down.

The deaths happened in Ohio, where as many as seven tornadoes struck.

A five-year-old child was among those killed in the small town of Millbury, Ohio, local media reported.

Some 50 homes were also destroyed in a weekend of devastation.

The tornados and storms were not confined to Ohio, with 11 people injured in storms in Michigan and 17 hospitalised in Illinois.

Damage to a wall of a Michigan nuclear power plant prompted an automatic shutdown and the facility will remain closed until response crews assess the impact.

The high school in Lake Township was among the hardest-hit buildings.

Some buses were thrown across the school car park, Superintendent Jim Witt said.

Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer described the affected area as “like a war zone”.

He said a child was among the victims.

Mr. Hummer said later that the authorities had finished searching damaged buildings and he was not aware of anyone being reported missing, but fields and woods were still being searched.

In Michigan, the Fermi nuclear power plant on the shore of Lake Erie was shut down after high winds tore a side from one of the buildings.

Dan Smith, public information officer for Monroe County, said investigators were inspecting the plant and it was expected to go back into operation soon.

An eyewitness in Illinois said the city of Streator had been badly damaged.

“I saw people coming out of their homes right after the tornado hit; a second story of a house was taken off,” Eddie Lavallie told the Chicago Tribune.

Streator Mayor Jimmie Lansford told a news conference that 17 people had been taken to a local hospital for treatment – and 30 buildings had “major structural damage”.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): News Corporation
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05
Jun
10

British Airways cabin crew begin third walkout

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British Airways cabin crew begin third walkout

Saturday, June 5, 2010

NEWS

••• Strike pay has been increased for British Airways cabin crew as they launch their latest wave of five-day walkouts in their bitter row with the airline.

Unite said on Saturday it will pay its members $65 a day, up from $43.36 in previous strikes, and is considering offering interest-free loans of $1.445 for hardship cases.

BA said more crew than expected turned up for work on Saturday at Heathrow airport, meaning it could operate additional flights.

The cabin crew on Saturday staged their 18th day of action since March and will stay out until next Wednesday, raising the cost of the industrial action to BA to well over $216.77 million.

The union is threatening to ballot its members again if the deadlocked row is not resolved, which could disrupt flights throughout the busy summer months.

The impact of the dispute was revealed this week when the airline announced a 14.2 percent dip in passenger numbers last month.

A BA spokesman said on Saturday: ‘Our global operations went very well last week and we have got off to another good start today at the beginning of this strike period.

‘The numbers of crew reporting for work at Heathrow on Saturday has been higher than we expected and as a result we have been able to operate additional flights to Los Angeles, Washington, Mexico City and Phoenix.

‘These flights are in addition to the larger schedule previously announced at Heathrow for this period of strike action.
‘We will continue to operate 100 percent of our schedule at Gatwick and London City airports and our cabin crew at Gatwick continue to ignore Unite’s strike calls and work as normal.’

BA is aiming to operate around 80 percent of long-haul flights from Heathrow over the next five days, up from 70 percent and 60 percent in the past two strike periods, and 60 percent of short-haul flights, up from 55 percent and 50 percent.

Talks between Unite’s joint leader Tony Woodley and BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas ended without agreement last week, with little sign of any progress.

An agreement in principle has been struck over cost-cutting, the original cause of the dispute, but the removal of travel concessions from strikers is now blocking a deal.

Unite has urged BA to fully restore the travel concessions, arguing it would not cost the airline any money.

The union said it believes the next series of strikes will be strongly supported by cabin crew and will have a ‘huge impact’ on flights.

Singer Billy Bragg performed an impromptu gig for the strikers at a football ground near Heathrow on Saturday.

An Acas spokesman said: ‘Acas and the TUC have continued to maintain contact with both BA and Unite since talks were adjourned.

‘It is expected that a date will be agreed shortly for talks to resume.’
» Check your flight information here: British Airways
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): British Airways PLC
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01
Jun
10

Tornadoes hit SE Colorado; no injuries reported

NEWS
Tornadoes hit SE Colorado; no injuries reported

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Earth

••• Another round of severe thunderstorms in Southeastern Colorado spawned at least four tornadoes Monday in Baca County.

There were no reported injuries.

Emergency officials reported the tornadoes knocked down telephone poles in open country and that hail with the storms broke out windows in homes and cars.

Emergency sirens sounded in several of the county’s small communities.

The National Weather Service reported the first tornado touched down at about 01:57 p.m. near Pritchett.

At 06:32 p.m. Doppler radar was tracking another tornado about nine miles southeast of Campo.

Stan Rose, a meteorologist with the weather service, said the second storm crossed into the Oklahoma Panhandle close to 07:000 p.m.

Rose said there were reports of tennis ball-sized hail in these storms.

“The tornadoes were over fairly rural areas,” Rose said.

Baca County officials reported two other tornadoes but they were not confirmed by the weather service.

The sheriff’s office reported telephone poles being knocked down along county roads C and 33. There also were reports of power lines and antennas down in Campo.
Riley Frazee, emergency management director for Baca County, said Campo residents were lucky the tornado did not touch down there.

“The rotation (of the storm) went directly over Campo. They got a lot of hail,” Frazee said.

Frazee said an old wooden shed attached to a cement foundation was lifted, moved about 30 feet and set on its top on County Road C about 3 miles east of U.S. 287.

“Campo cut it real close. We were there watching the clouds and right above the town there was huge rotation. The funnel cloud started to come down, but moved east,” Frazee said.

“The tornadoes that we usually see are kind of the thinner rope tornadoes, but these were the big ones,” he said.

Frazee said the tornado near Pritchett was about two miles wide as it swirled on its base.

“They were huge today. It was a good day for weather spotting,” Frazee said.

The latest round of storms came less than one week since Southeastern Colorado was hit with several other severe storms.

On May 25, the weather service reported a tornado touched down in Baca County causing minor damage.

On the same day, the weather service reported 11 small tornadoes touched down over open country between Sheridan Lake and Towner in Kiowa County.

There were no injuries or major damages reported in any of those storms.

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28
May
10

Guatemala volcano forces airport closure, kills one

NEWS
Guatemala volcano forces airport closure, kills one

Friday, May 28, 2010

Earth••• Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has declared a state of emergency after a powerful eruption at the southern Pacaya volcano killed one person and forced the international airport to close.

Ash blanketed the region as rocks and lava spewed from the volcano 31 miles south of the capital, as Colom late on Thursday issued the emergency decree lasting at least 15 days for the three departments nearest the eruption, which began on Wednesday night and has since built in intensity.
The La Aurora International Airport was closed to ensure planes were not flying through the volcano’s hazardous ash cloud or landing on the ash-strewn runway, said spokeswoman Monica Monge.

Incoming flights were being diverted to airports in other parts of the country, she told reporters.

About 1600 people were evacuated from the slopes of the volcano, which rises 1.59 miles above sea level in the tropical Central American nation.

The burnt body of Guatelamalan television journalist Anibal Archila was found near the volcano by a colleague, who said the reporter had been unable to escape the raining rocks and other projectiles thrown out in the eruption.

Three children aged seven, nine and 10 are also missing in the area, officials said.

There are 288 volcanoes in Guatemala, eight of which are active.
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27
May
10

Second Iceland volcano could erupt in near future

NEWS
Second Iceland volcano could erupt in near future
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Earth••• An Icelandic volcano neighbouring Eyjafjoell, whose eruptions paralysed Europe’s skies last month, could come to life in the near future, experts have warned.

‘An eruption in the short term is a strong possibility,’ experts said, referring to Katla, which is larger and fiercer than Eyjafjoell, in a report from the University College London (UCL) institute for risk and disaster reduction.

The researchers also cautioned that Europe’s skies were likely to be hit by further ash cloud shutdowns, following April’s widespread closures and several smaller scale shutdowns since.

The report warned that ‘future moderately to highly explosive Icelandic eruptions combined with appropriate weather conditions are highly likely to cause a repeat of the recent air transport disruption.’

The Eyjafjoell volcano began erupting on April 14, and spewed out an ash cloud that drifted over Europe and led to massive flight disruption throughout the continent for several days.

It caused the biggest airspace shutdown in Europe since World War II, affecting more than 100,000 flights and eight million passengers.
The UCL experts – encompassing scientists, engineers and statisticians also criticised the response to the eruption.

‘The severe disruption to European airspace in April from (the volcano’s) ash clouds reflect a lack of integration between the monitoring, warning and risk management systems,’ said Carina Fearnley, of UCL’s hazard research centre.

In a second report released on Thursday, a team of British researchers said they had discovered a significant electrical charge in the ash plume.

The scientists, from the Institute of Physics, said they found that ‘the ash plume which hovered over Scotland carried a significant and self-renewing electric charge.’

They warned that the charge could pose a risk to both planes and passengers.

‘Charged particles can cause aircraft radio interference and, if introduced into aircraft cabins, charged ash may present an electrostatic hazard to occupants or aircraft systems,’ said the report.

The scientists used a specialist weather balloon to conduct research on a section of the ash cloud floating over Scotland.
• Source(s): University College London

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23
May
10

No activity at Iceland volcano, eruption could be over

NEWS
No activity at Iceland volcano, eruption could be over

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Earth••• A geophysicist says Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano is no longer in activity raising hopes the eruption which has heavily disrupted European flights for more than a month could be over.

Magnus Gudmundsson (Professor of Geophysics) of Iceland University says he can confirm the activity of the crater has stopped and no magma is coming up.

However he’s cautioned it’s too early to tell whether this is the end of the eruption or just a temporary stop in activity.

The volcano began erupting on April 14 and during its highest activity peak in the week after it began erupting it released enough ash to cause the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II affecting more than 100-thousand flights and eight million passengers.
• Source(s): University of Iceland
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21
May
10

British Airways posts another record annual loss

NEWS
British Airways posts another record annual loss

Friday, May 21, 2010

British Airways has posted a record annual net loss of $754 million, due to the recession, a tough winter and strikes by cabin crews in March.

Friday’s earnings update from the carrier – which is currently facing 15 more days of walkouts in a bitter dispute with cabin crews over changes to pay and working conditions – is slightly better than had been feared.

The loss for the year ending March 31 compares with a loss of $517.883 million in the previous year. Revenue dropped 11 percent to $11.558 billion.

British Airways (BA) says it is making progress on a cost savings program that has included cutting jobs. It has warned the Unite union that the disputed changes are necessary for the airline to survive in a post-financial crisis world.

The airline said revenues had plunged by $1.447 billion, although this was offset by falling fuel costs as well as savings elsewhere in the business.

Chief executive Willie Walsh also fired a broadside at unions after Unite on Thursday won its appeal against the latest strikes being ruled out on a technicality.

‘Returning the business to profitability requires permanent change across the company and it’s disappointing that our cabin crew union fails to recognise that,’ he warned.

He added that the current financial year ‘could hardly have had a worse start’ due to the disruption caused by Iceland’s volcanic eruption, which closed most of European airspace for almost a week in April.

Following the court decision, 15 days of strikes are due to kick off on Monday.

But the group said market conditions were showing improvement and BA is expecting to break even this year following its heavy losses.
• Source(s): British Airways PLC and Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp.
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20
May
10

British Airways Strike Injunction Overturned

NEWS
British Airways Strike Injunction Overturned

Thursday, May 20, 2010

NEWS

••• British Airways cabin crew will go on strike for five days from Tuesday after the Unite union won an appeal against a High Court injunction blocking the action.

A series of five-day walkouts had been due to start this week but last Tuesday the High Court ruled in favour of British Airways as the airline made a last-ditch bid to stop the walkouts, Sky News reported today.

Overnight, two out of three judges sitting at the Court of Appeal in London accepted the union’s challenge to the High Court ruling.

After the decision, Unite announced a five-day strike from Tuesday next week.

British Airways said it was “disappointed for its customers” that Unite’s appeal had been upheld and described the strikes as “unjustified and pointless.”

It said, “We are confident that thousands of cabin crew will ignore Unite’s strike call and help us fly more than 70 percent of the customers who were booked to fly with us in the period targeted.”

The union originally announced four five-day stoppages from May 18-22 inclusive, then from May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9, the last strike ending just two days before the start of the World Cup in South Africa.

Joint Unite leader Tony Woodley repeated his claim the original dispute between British Airways and its cabin crew had been agreed in principle.

He said British Airways now had an “ideal opportunity” to settle the dispute despite the legal wrangle.

Mr. Woodley accused the airline of being “incredibly petty and vindictive” by refusing to fully restore travel concessions to staff who went on strike in March and over disciplinary action taken against more than 50 union members.
» Check your flight information here: British Airways
• Source(s): Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp. and British Airways PLC
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17
May
10

British Airways in court attempt to block strike

NEWS
British Airways in court attempt to block strike
Unite spokesman Steve Turner calls a High Court injunction against a planned strike by British Airways cabin crew an ‘affront to democracy’.

Monday, May 17, 2010

NEWS

••• British Airways has blocked a series of four five-day strikes by cabin crew after the High Court in London granted an injunction just hours before they were due to start.

The airline, facing mounting chaos because of the industrial dispute coupled with the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland, succeeded in its legal action after successfully claiming the cabin crew union’s strike ballot failed to follow rules.

Members of the Unite union had been due to walk out from Tuesday to May 22, with further strikes planned on May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9.

The airline argued Unite had not properly complied with the requirement to send everyone eligible to vote details of the exact breakdown of the ballot result and therefore the strike action was unlawful.

The judge, Richard McCombe, expressed sympathy for the union and its members, but said: I am unable to say it is sufficiently clear that the union took the steps required by law at the time they were required.

Unite, which is locked in an increasingly bitter battle with BA over staffing and pay, strongly criticised the ruling and vowed to appeal.

This judgment is an absolute disgrace and will rank as a landmark attack on free trade unionism and the right to take industrial action, said the union’s leaders, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson.
British Airway said: We are delighted for our customers that Unite’s plans for extreme and unjustified strike action cannot go ahead.

The airline said it had already been forced to rearrange much of its schedule to accommodate the planned strike, but promised to restore a full flying program at its London Heathrow base by the weekend.

British Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, who held separate talks with both sides earlier on Monday, said the judgment was good news for passengers.

I want (both sides) to use this breathing space to resolve this dispute, both to avoid disruption to passengers and to safeguard the future of the airline, he said.

British Airway chief executive Willie Walsh spent three hours in talks on Monday with the Unite leaders and adjourned shortly after the court decision.

There will be further talks but events have been overtaken by the court’s decision, said Walsh.

A British Airway spokesman said: “We are delighted for our customers that Unite’s plans for extreme and unjustified strike action cannot go ahead. We are sorry the court judgment cannot undo the disruption already suffered by some customers who were due to travel during the early days of the union’s industrial action.

“As Unite knew, we had to announce last Thursday the rearrangement of our Heathrow schedule to give customers as much notice as possible about changes to their travel plans necessitated by the strike call. Ash disruption permitting, we will aim to restore a full flying programme at Heathrow by the weekend. We will also offer a full programme at Gatwick and London City, as planned.”

Unite’s national officer Steve Turner said: “It’s an affront to democracy and our members and we will be fighting back tomorrow.”

It is the second time in the long-running dispute that BA has succeeded in halting a cabin crew strike through legal action.

The airline won a High Court battle in December to stop a 12-day walkout over the busy Christmas and New Year holidays, when a judge granted an injunction.

British Airway also argued on this occasion that Unite’s ballot of staff was invalid.

The airline’s cabin crew staged walkouts in March, which were marked by sharp disagreements between the union and British Airway over the impact of the industrial action.
» Check your flight information here: British Airways
• Source(s): Independent Television News (ITN) and British Airways PLC
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17
May
10

No-fly zone lifted from North West airports

NEWS
No-fly zone lifted from North West airports

Monday, May 17, 2010

Earth

••• Planes will be allowed to fly through volcanic ash under new measures announced today by the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority.

The announcement of a new Time Limited Zone (TLZ) was made after all UK airspace was reopened yesterday evening.

The CAA said the TLZ – introduced from midday today (local time) – would allow flights for a limited time at higher ash densities than are currently allowed.

To operate in the new zone, airlines need to present the CAA with a safety case that includes the agreement of their aircraft and engine manufacturers.

The CAA said this meant that in future some areas of UK airspace that would have previously had to close would be able to remain open.

CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: “I’m pleased that the huge efforts we’re all making across aviation to keep flying safe while minimising the disruption from the volcano have resulted in further progress.”

The measures follow heavy criticism of the no-fly zones from airline industry chiefs.

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh said blanket bans on flying were “a gross over-reaction to a very minor risk”.

And Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson described the situation as “beyond a joke”.

The announcement came after the U.K.’s National Air Traffic Service confirmed that British airspace was to reopen from 02:00 pm EDT time on Monday until 08:00 pm EDT.

A no-fly zone would remain over parts of the North Sea, affecting some helicopter flights.

The majority of U.K. airports reopened today with only a few – including some in the Shetland Isles – still closed.

Heathrow and Gatwick were among the airports that had closed late on Sunday (local time) when the volcanic ash cloud moved south.
• Source(s): Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp.
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17
May
10

Ash cloud restrictions lifted

NEWS
Ash cloud restrictions lifted

Monday, May 17, 2010

Earth

••• Three of Europe’s busiest airports reopened on Monday afternoon after a dense volcanic ash cloud from Iceland dissipated and a no-fly zone was lifted. Up to 1000 flights in Europe were affected by the closures.

Flights were landing and taking off from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, but all three warned travellers it would take time for airlines to clear the backlog of delayed flights and to contact their airlines before going to the airport.

Eurocontrol, the continent’s air traffic control agency, said 28,000 flights were expected on Monday in Europe, about 1000 less than normal, mainly due to the disruptions in Britain and the Netherlands.

Icelandic civil protection official Agust Gunnar Gylfason said the ash cloud was travelling to the north, forcing airports in Keflavik and Reykjavik to close. He said seismic activity at the volcano was unchanged.

All British, Scottish and Irish airspace was open at least until early on Tuesday, but airspace over the North Sea was still restricted, affecting some helicopter operations.

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh – facing a fresh wave of strikes by cabin crews on Tuesday – called the latest airspace closures ‘a gross overreaction to a very minor risk’.

‘I am very concerned that we have decisions on opening and closing of airports based on a theoretical model,’ he said.

‘There was no evidence of ash in the skies over London today yet Heathrow was closed.’

Aviation officials have defended the decision to impose the no-fly zone, saying airline representatives and engine manufacturers last week had agreed to find a way to ensure planes could fly safely in the volcanic ash.

Britain’s transportation minister, Philip Hammond, said aircraft manufacturers were examining evidence to see ‘what inspection regimes they can put in place that would allow safe flying through a somewhat higher threshold of ash.

‘If we can do that, the likelihood of volcanic ash disrupting flights will obviously diminish,’ he said.

Germany sent up two test flights on Sunday to measure the ash cloud, but there was no word yet on the results of those tests. Still, Germany said on Monday the latest ash cloud should not affect its airports.

‘At this time, the concentration of ash above German air space is so low that there are no reductions in air traffic,’ German Air Traffic Controllers said.

Ash can clog jet engines. The April 14 eruption at Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano forced most countries in northern Europe to shut their airspace between April 15-20, grounding more than 100,000 flights and an estimated 10 million travellers worldwide. The shutdown cost airlines more than $2 billion.

Last week, the European air safety agency proposed drastically narrowing the continent’s no-fly zone because of volcanic ash to one similar to that used in the U.S. The proposal still must be approved.

Eurostar added four extra trains on Monday – an additional 3500 seats – between London and Paris to help travellers cope.

Eyjafjallajokul (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) erupted in April for the first time in nearly two centuries. During its last eruption, starting in 1821, its emissions rumbled on for two years.
» Millions watch Iceland volcano online – Mila ehf – Lífæð samskipta
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• Source(s): EUROCONTROL, Met Office (U.K.), Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), British Department of Transport (DfT), German Aerospace Center (DLR) and ITN
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16
May
10

U.K. and Ireland shut some airspace due to ash cloud

NEWS
U.K. and Ireland shut some airspace due to ash cloud

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Earth

••• Several British and Irish airports have closed as the ash cloud returned, drifting south and east following fresh eruptions from the Icelandic volcano.

Manchester Airport in northwest England and Dublin Airport, among the 20 busiest in Europe, were among those affected by the cloud on Sunday, with the ash levels deemed too dangerous to fly through.

Manchester – Britain’s busiest airport outside London, where airports were so far unaffected – was among a host of northern British airports to shut from 08:00 am EDT to 02:00 pm EDT (12:00 pm GMT to 06:00 pm GMT), including all those in Northern Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland’s main airport, was to close from 02:00 pm EDT until at least 04:00 am EDT (06:00 pm GMT until at least 08:00 am GMT) on Monday.

Europe’s skies were closed for up to a week last month following the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano, in the biggest shutdown of the continent’s airspace since World War II.
The volcanic ash, which can cause serious damage to jet engines, has continued to cause disruption on a smaller scale in certain parts of Europe.

A vulcanologist from the University of Iceland said Eyjafjoell activity had worsened in recent days.

‘There is slightly increased activity for the past two days, there has been some ash fall around the glacier,’ said Bjoern Oddsson, who was travelling to the volcano to assess the new situation.

‘The column (of smoke) has increased and rises up to eight kilometres,’ he told AFP, as opposed to six kilometres in previous days.

As for the effect on European flights triggered by the rise in activity, that ‘all depends on the winds’, said the geologist from the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland.

Travelling southwards towards the Atlantic Ocean, it should turn towards inner Iceland on Tuesday, according to weather forecasts.

In Britain, the other airports shut from 08:00 am EDT to 02:00 pm EDT as the no-fly zone extended southwards and eastwards were regional air hubs such as East Midlands, Liverpool, Leeds-Bradford, Doncaster and Humberside.

Some Scottish airports, including their fourth busiest, Prestwick, shut down, while all Northern Ireland airports closed for the period. Isle of Man airport also shut.

National Air Traffic Services, which manages British airspace, said the no-fly zone had moved east and south for the six-hour period, and it would issue further updates as necessary.

Britain’s Department of Transport had warned on Saturday British airspace was likely to face partial closures from Sunday until Tuesday due to the volcanic ash cloud.

London airports, including Europe’s busiest air hub, Heathrow, could be affected, it said.

Eurostar, which runs high-speed rail services linking London with Paris and Brussels via the Channel tunnel, said it was laying on extra trains to meet an expected surge in demand.

‘We’ve planned four extra trains on Monday,’ a spokeswoman told AFP. ‘Two between London and Paris and two between Paris and London. It’s because the trains are already very busy and have very little capacity left.’

In the Republic of Ireland, Cork and Shannon remain open until further notice, while Ireland West (Knock), Donegal and Sligo airports remain closed until at least 07:00 am EDT (11:00 am GMT) on Monday.

Kerry is open until further notice, Galway is closed until at least 04:00 am EDT (08:00 am GMT) on Monday and Waterford is to close from 06:00 pm EDT (10:00 pm) until at least 04:00 am EDT (08:00 am GMT) on Monday.

North Atlantic overflights through Irish-controlled airspace remain unaffected.

In Scandinavia, the skies were open over Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and should remain so until at least Monday night.

There were no restrictions on German flights. Ash pollution should remain weak until at least Tuesday.
» Millions watch Iceland volcano online – Mila ehf – Lífæð samskipta
» Check your flight information here: American, Delta, United, Continental, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Aer Arann, easyJet, Flybe, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Iberia, TAP, Qantas, JAT
» Important information – British Airways Industrial Action, travel to / from Thailand and Volcanic Flight Disruptions
• Source(s): EUROCONTROL, Met Office (U.K.), Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), British Department of Transport (DfT), Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Sky News (BSkyB)
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16
May
10

Volcanic ash risk and British Airways strikes threaten more air misery

NEWS
Volcanic ash risk and British Airways strikes threaten more air misery
Sunday, May 16, 2010

NEWS••• Travel chaos is set to return to Britain with fresh threats from an Icelandic volcano and of British Airways cabin crew strikes.

British aviation authorities on Sunday reintroduced a no-fly zone over parts of Northern Ireland as the volcanic ash cloud returned to the skies over the U.K..

They also warned some of the U.K.’s busiest airports, including London’s Heathrow, could close in coming days if the ash cloud drifts southwards as forecast.

The return of the ash cloud, which caused the mass closure of British and European airports in April, comes ahead of a planned five-day strike by British Airways cabin crew on Tuesday in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

British Airways will seek an injunction in the High Court in London on Monday in an attempt to stop the strike, which threatens the travel plans of thousands of the airline’s customers around the world.

If the strike goes ahead, it is likely to compound problems caused by the return of the ash cloud.

In Northern Ireland on Sunday, Belfast International and Belfast City airports as well as Ronaldsway airport on the Isle of Man all had flights cancelled until at least 01:00 pm BST (08:00 am EDT).

Britain’s Transport Department warned there could be further disruption across the country until the middle of the week thanks to ash blowing across from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjoell.

The ash cloud is expected to reach London by Tuesday, threatening the cancellation of flights at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports.

Forecasters believe the ash cloud will begin to drift away from the U.K. on Wednesday when the wind direction is expected to change.

Air passengers travelling to and from Britain in coming days are being warned to check with their airlines before heading to airports to find out if their flights have been cancelled.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the government was carefully monitoring the situation and that passenger safety was its main concern.

‘We have taken the decision to publish five-day forecasts as we want airlines, other transport providers and the public to have the best possible information,’ he said.

‘However, the situation remains fluid and these forecasts are always liable to change.

‘NATS – the U.K.’s air traffic services provider – will advise of any airspace closures as and when they become necessary and I urge passengers to check with their airlines before taking any action.’

Meanwhile, Mr Hammond is preparing to intervene in the dispute between BA and its cabin crew in an attempt to avert up to 20 days of planned strikes in the next four weeks.

Mr. Hammond is to hold emergency talks with both sides on Monday.

British Airways insists that 70 percent of flights, will still operate if cabin crew walk off the job.
» Cabin crew will walk out from May 18 to 22, May 24 to 28, May 30 to June 3 and June 5 to 9, which will cover the school half-term holidays and a bank holiday.
» Important information – British Airways Industrial Action, travel to / from Thailand and Volcanic Flight Disruptions
» Check your flight information here: British Airways

• Source(s): U.K. Press & British Airways

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16
May
10

Volcanic ash cloud shuts parts of E.U. airspace

NEWS
Volcanic ash cloud shuts parts of E.U. airspace
Sunday, May 16, 2010

Earth

••• Volcanic ash from Iceland could disrupt air travel in both Britain and Germany in the next few days, officials say.

The British Department of Transport said on Saturday there’s a risk that parts of British airspace could be closed beginning on Sunday and those problems could continue until Tuesday. The predictions are based on the continuing eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano and current wind and weather conditions.

It said different parts of British airspace – including England’s southeast, home to Europe’s busiest airport at Heathrow as well as Gatwick, Stansted and other top airports – could close at different times through the next few days.

In Germany, air traffic control spokesman Axel Raab told The Associated Press that German air travel could face possible disruptions starting on Monday, but cautioned that indicators are still ‘very, very vague’.

Germany will send up a test flight on Sunday to measure the ash concentration, German Aerospace Center spokesman Andreas Schuetz said – a measure welcomed by Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline, which last month criticised air traffic authorities for their lack of ash testing.

Any decision on German air space closures will be made after examining Sunday’s weather forecasts at an emergency meeting with meteorologists, Raab said.

In Iceland, civil protection official Agust Gunnar Gylfason said the intensity of the Eyjafjallajokul eruption has not changed but wind conditions have.

‘The winds in the vicinity of the volcano are not quite as forceful as they have been, so the ash plume is higher closer to the volcano,’ he said. ‘The weather patterns are the predominant factor in deciding where the ash goes.’

The Met Office, Britain’s weather forecaster, said on Saturday the wind is expected to change direction on Tuesday, which would lower the risk of travel disruptions.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said five-day forecasts are now being published to give airlines and travellers ‘the best possible information. However, he said the situation ‘remains fluid and these forecasts are always liable to change’.
British airport operator BAA said on its website on Saturday that all of its facilities are open, but the ash cloud ‘continues to cause occasional problems’. It said it will have a clearer idea of how the ash could affect southern England over the next 24 hours.

Airlines, including Lufthansa and British Airways, have criticised past air space closures as an overreaction by regulators.

The controversy over how to handle the flight disruptions led to the resignation of a top Lufthansa executive, news weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

Stefanie Stotz, a spokeswoman for Lufthansa, confirmed that chief security pilot Juergen Steinberg is leaving ‘by mutual agreement’ on August 1. He had criticised Lufthansa’s leadership for operating flights under visual flight rules while German airspace was still officially closed because of the ash cloud.

Steinberg represents about 4000 pilots and advises Lufthansa’s board on security issues.

In Rome, Italy’s civil aviation agency fined Ryanair about three million euros ($3.81 million) for failing to help 178 passengers stranded last month when flights were cancelled due to the volcanic ash cloud. The ENAC agency said those Ryanair passengers didn’t receive mandatory assistance such as food, drink and lodgings during the April 15-22 flight shutdown across much of Europe.

Ryanair said the company hadn’t been informed of the fine.
» Millions watch Iceland volcano online – Mila ehf – Lífæð samskipta
» Check your flight information here: American, Delta, United, Continental, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Aer Arann, easyJet, Flybe, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Iberia, TAP, Qantas, JAT
» Important information – British Airways Industrial Action, travel to / from Thailand and Volcanic Flight Disruptions
• Source(s): EUROCONTROL, Met Office (U.K.), Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), British Department of Transport (DfT), German Aerospace Center (DLR) and ITN
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13
May
10

Airports Reopen After Volcanic Ash Cloud Air Disruption

NEWS
Airports Reopen After Volcanic Ash Cloud Air Disruption
Thursday, May 13, 2010

Earth••• Restrictions on flights to and from airports in Spain, Portugal and Morocco were lifted following days of disruption caused by volcanic ash cloud.

In Spain, all airports resumed normal operations, with Valencia, the last to see restrictions lifted, reopening from 06:00 am GMT (02:00 am EDT), said the Spanish air traffic control organisation Aena.

A ban on flights was also lifted at all Portuguese airports on Wednesday, said Portugal’s NAV air traffic authority.

‘There is no more disruption,’ said a statement issued by the authority.
However, flights from Tunisia to Morocco and some European destinations were disrupted, although Tunisia’s transport ministry said that flights had only been delayed and none cancelled.

‘There has been some disruption since Tuesday to flights leaving Tunisian airports destined for Spain, Portugal and Italy because of the ash cloud from the volcanic eruption,’ the ministry said.

In Morocco, the main airports, in particular Casablanca and Rabat, reopened at 06:00 am GMT (02:00 am EDT) on Wednesday after overnight restrictions.

Algerian officials said the ash had reached as far as the east of the capital Algiers but that air traffic remained normal so far.

The ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano, which began erupting on April 14, last month caused the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II.

Volcanologists in Iceland said the latest ash cloud problems, which first forced closures of Spanish airports from last Saturday, were caused by ash left over from previous weeks which can travel around in the atmosphere due to winds.
• Source(s): EUROCONTROL, Met Office (U.K.) and Irish Aviation Authority (IAA)
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11
May
10

Five Dead, Dozens Injured as Tornadoes Hit Plains

NEWS
Five Dead, Dozens Injured as Tornadoes Hit Plains

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Earth

••• After tornadoes swept through central Oklahoma on Monday afternoon, approximately 20 people were being treated for injuries at Norman Regional Healthplex.

An emergency services staff member confirmed that patients had been transported to Norman Regional, but could not say whether numbers were higher or comment on the condition of patients being treated at the time.

Early reports have confirmed one known fatality from the storm so far, but emergency officials expect more conclusive numbers as information becomes available.

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jerry Lojka said two people were killed Oklahoma City and three were killed in Cleveland County, which is south of the city. The agency did not have any additional details, including how the people die.

Officials reported that at least 58 others suffered injuries throughout Oklahoma Tornado in the daylong onslaught. Two of the injuries were critical.
• Source(s): NOAA, NWS, Storm Chasers (Discovery Communications, LLC) and TornadoVideos.net

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10
May
10

Airports operate normally as ash clears over Europe

NEWS
Airports operate normally as ash clears over Europe
Monday, May 10, 2010

Earth••• Flights across Europe were operating normally Monday after a plume of volcanic ash that disrupted air traffic and forced some airports to close over the weekend dispersed, aviation officials said.

But delays on trans-Atlantic flights were expected because another band in mid-ocean was still blocking the air routes between Europe and North America, the European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said.

“While most of these flights are oprating, many are having to make significant re-routings to avoid the area of ash cloud coverage, resulting in delays,” according to a statement from the agency.

The ash cloud from a fresh eruption of the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull volcano reached west and northwest Romania and is expected to cover most part of the country by Tuesday afternoon, said the authorities on Monday.

Citing the latest forecast of the London Volcanic Ash Advisory, Romania’s Environment Ministry said the cloud will cover most of the country by 03:00 am EEST (08:00 pm EDT on Monday, May 10) on Tuesday.

According to the National Meteorology Administration, the volcano ash cloud over Romania’s territory is not causing pollution, during the coming 24 hours.

Romania will not close its airspace Monday, said Civil Aviation Department chief Catalin Radu, adding that the night evolution of the cloud does not affect airline traffic.

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano began erupting last month, causing air travel chaos across Europe for about a week as many countries closed their airspace, due to lack of visibility and the danger the ashes pose to aircraft.

Ireland will re-open its airports on Monday after the latest aerial shutdown due to volcanic ash from Iceland that is still causing travel disruptions around Europe after nearly a month.

Donegal, Sligo, Ireland West (Knock), Galway and Kerry on the west coast will re-open at 06:00 am IST (02:00 am EDT), said the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

They were closed progressively on Sunday due to the threat to plane engines from an ash cloud hovering over the Atlantic.

‘The past number of days has seen the growth of a large cloud of high ash concentration off the west coast of Ireland, and this has caused difficulty for some transatlantic operations,’ said the IAA in a statement.

Restrictions were also lifted late on Sunday in Scottish airspace – they had been imposed over some northern areas – with the exception of the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides.

Ireland has faced several fresh shutdowns in recent days. On Thursday airports were closed before being re-opened just three hours later.
• Source(s): EUROCONTROL, Met Office (U.K.) and Irish Aviation Authority(IAA)
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09
May
10

Volcanic ash cloud returns, disrupting European flights

NEWS
Volcanic ash cloud returns, disrupting European flights
Sunday, May 9, 2010

Earth••• A cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland has continued to move over parts of Europe and the North Atlantic.

About 900 flights to and from airports in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Germany were canceled on Sunday as a result of the cloud, announced European airspace controller Eurocontrol.

Hundreds of flights at airports from Lisbon to Munich have been cancelled and some European airspace has been closed because of a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland that caused air travel chaos last month.

All flights to the city of Porto in northern Portugal and the Azores were suspended on Sunday, with normal operations expected to resume by 06:00 am GMT (02:00 am EDT) on Monday, airport officials there said.

In all more than 200 flights were grounded in Portugal, including 71 at Lisbon’s airport, where Pope Benedict XVI is due to arrive on Tuesday for a four-day visit to the country.

The Vatican said the pontiff’s trip was still on schedule despite the air traffic disruptions.

‘At the present time, we expect no change to the program’ of the Pope’s visit, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told AFP.

The volcanic ash cloud’s unwelcome return affected air travel across much of southern Europe, especially in France and Italy, and extended into Austria and Germany.

The airspace around the southern German city of Munich was closed at 01:00 pm GMT (09;00 am EDT), cancelling flights there and at other airports, including Stuttgart, authorities said.

‘Due to the high level of contamination from volcanic ash, there have been no flights taking off or landing at Munich airport,’ said the air safety agency, DFS. The measures will be in force ‘until further notice’.

Neighbouring Austria has partly closed its airspace until the early hours of Monday, hampering traffic at airports in Vienna, Innsbruck, Linz and Salzburg, the air authority Austro Control said.

The coordinator of air traffic control across Europe said it expected about 24,500 flights to take place on Sunday, about 500 less than the average for this time of year.

Eurocontrol said: ‘Transatlantic flights continue to be affected by the ash cloud,’ with many suffering delays as they skirt the edges of the volcanic plume.

Authorities reopened Italy’s skies in the north to air traffic at 02:00 pm GMT on Sunday (10:00 am EDT on Monday) after shutting down its airspace earlier for about six hours as the ash cloud hovered over the peninsula, cancelling nearly 300 flights at Milan airports.

On Croatia’s Adriatic coast the ash cloud forced officials to close airports at Split and Zadar at 12:00 pm GMT (08:00 am EDT).

In France, the airspace remained open on Sunday but at least 70 flights bound for southern Europe were grounded at airports in Paris, Lyon, and Nice, the nearest international airport to Cannes, which is to host its flagship international film festival in three days.

The French weather service said the volcanic ash cloud could drift over southern France by Monday morning and could affect Europe’s skies for several months.

Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano erupted on April 14 and caused travel chaos worldwide, with airspace closed over many European nations for a week in mid-April over fears the ash would damage aircraft engines with fatal results.

It was the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled affecting about eight million passengers. The airline industry said it lost about 2.5 billion euros ($3.18 billion).

The volcano began fresh and intensive ash eruptions overnight on Thursday and closed Ireland’s airspace for a time, and was again affecting the island nation on Sunday.

Irish airports at Donegal, Sligo and Ireland West (Knock) on the western coast face restrictions from 02:00 pm GMT (10:00 am EDT) on Sunday while Galway will be disrupted from 03:00 pm GMT (11:00 am EDT) and Kerry from 09:00 pm GMT (05:00 pm EDT), authorities said.

Meanwhile, Spanish air traffic was returning to normal, with most of the 19 airports in northern Spain that were closed on Saturday reopening about 02:00 pm GMT (10:00 am EDT), air control authority Aena said.
• Source(s): EUROCONTROL, Met Office (U.K.), Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Icelandic Met Office
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