Millions Of Travelers Remain Inconvenienced By Volcanic Ash

Put that passport back in your pocket, European traveler — just about all of Europe’s major airports are still closed as Iceland’s roving clouds of volcanic ash continue to blanket the continent, shutting down air space and forcing airports to cancels tens of thousands of flights over the last three days.

The ash started affecting air travel Wednesday, when Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull volcano began erupting for the second time in a month. When lava hits ice, it essentially turns into tiny particles of glass, which are then carried into the ash plume. Planes don’t want that stuff in their engines.

The ash would continue to ground planes into Sunday, European aviation agency Eurocontrol told BBC News.

“Forecasts suggest that the cloud of volcanic ash will persist and that the impact will continue for at least the next 24 hours,” a statement from Eurocontrol said today, with around 16,000 of the normally scheduled 22,000 flights to be canceled across 38 countries on Saturday.

Yesterday saw 18,000 out of 28,000 flights shut down, twice as many as on Thursday.

And it doesn’t look like that ash is in a hurry to stop being a pain in the butt — a 5.3 mile-high plume was visible today in Iceland.

“The column is pulsing in height, as fresh explosions occur in the active crater. One can see curtains of ash fallout below the plume from time to time,” said Dr. David Rothery, of the UK Open University’s earth sciences department, based on images sent from live webcams. That ash will most likely get sucked up in high altitude winds and spread south.

On the bright side, guess this ash-domination is good news for car rental services and train lines, as passengers across Europe look for other options to get where they need to go.