Hundreds of thousands of passengers – including thousands of New Zealanders – will not be able to get to Britain and Europe until at least midday today as a cloud of volcanic ash drifts across the continent, halting flights and closing airports.
Up to 5000 flights were cancelled and thousands more delayed because of fears ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano could be sucked into aircraft engines and instruments, causing them to fail.
The dust-fine ash – mostly silica particles – is floating between 6000m and 11000m, the altitude band in which large passenger jets fly.
A New Zealand weather expert who heads a world body yesterday warned that the eruption could also have long-term consequences.
Dr Jim Salinger, president of the World Meteorological Organisation’s Commission for Agricultural Meteorology, said the ash could cause Northern Hemisphere temperatures to drop by as much as 0.5C.