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Volcanic cloud engulfs European sky, shuts down flights

Britain is a no-fly zone.

“Today’s closure of UK airspace is unprecedented. After the 9-11 terrorist attacks in America, transatlantic flights were suspended and the airspace over London alone was closed. But this is the first time all flights into and out of the UK have been grounded.”–Text message from BBC correspondent Jane Peel.

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The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite captured an ash plume from Eyjafjallajokull Volcano over the North Atlantic today.

Image: NASA/MODIS Rapid Response Team

All flights in and out of the UK have been suspended as ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland moves south, BBC News reports on its website.

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Steam explodes from a glacier-topped Iceland volcano in an aerial picture taken April 14, 2010, by the Icelandic Coast Guard. See more photos.

Photograph courtesy Árni Sæberg, Icelandic Coast Guard

“Safety body Eurocontrol said up to 4,000 flights across northern Europe would be cancelled on Thursday…The airspace restriction was the most significant in living memory,” the BBC reported.

Volcano facts, video, photos

The giant cloud of ash called to mind the 1982 incident when a British Airways Boeing 747 flew through an ash cloud over Indonesia.

“A strange St Elmo’s Fire-like light had appeared on the cockpit windscreen and sulphur-smelling smoke started filling the passenger cabin. Then, within minutes, all four engines had failed,” the Telegraph reports on its website.

The plane managed to glide sufficiently out of the ash plume for three of the four badly damaged engines to restart. It had fallen 25,000 feet.

A similar incident occurred in 1989 when a KLM Boeing 747 lost power in all its engines after entering a cloud of ash from the erupting Mount Redoubt volcano in Alaska, the Telegraph reported. (Read a story and see pictures about last year’s eruption of Mount Redoubt.)

Read a National Geographic Magazine feature about Iceland

Ancient Global Dimming Linked to Volcanic Eruption (NG News, 2008)

Iceland guide, facts, map