Some Lava, Less Ash From Iceland Volcano

April 26, 2010

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A small amount of lava is now flowing from the Icelandic volcano that disrupted air traffic across Europe last week, and the ash production that caused the problems has diminished.

"There is a very little lava and ash production," Johannes Tomasson at Iceland's Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said on Sunday.

Huge ash clouds spewing from the volcano last week led to European air traffic being grounded for days, causing havoc for airlines and hardship for many businesses.

Flowing lava probably means less ash from now on because the ash was produced by lava melting through the Eyjafjallajokull glacier on top of the volcano, Tomasson said.

"They (scientists) are expecting ash to reduce, or at least not increase," he said, adding there was still seismic activity under the glacier.

He said it was very hard to predict what would happen next at the volcano, located about 120 km (75 miles) southeast of the capital Reykjavik, however.

A scientist who flew over the volcano on Saturday estimated about 10-20 cubic metres of lava per second was coming out of the volcano's crater, state radio reported.

Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson of the University of Iceland said although the lava was not yet visible, signs of the flow were apparent.

"The northern crater is active with sporadic explosions when the lava comes in contact with ice," he said.

Air traffic got back to normal across almost all of Europe on Friday, but domestic flights in Iceland were grounded on Saturday due to ash over the capital. The airport in Keflavik has been closed since Friday morning.

While the eruption appears to be becoming less of a threat to air traffic, scientists have expressed concern it could set off the nearby Katla volcano, which is much larger.

Experts say history shows that an eruption at Katla often follows one under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier.

Katla last blew in 1918, flooding huge areas with the melting water from glaciers.

(Reuters)