An ash cloud from a volcano in Iceland has spread across the Atlantic Ocean and brushed the Canadian coast, but is not expected to drift much further across North America, British forecasters said on Monday.
Britain's Met Office, the national weather service, said the vast cloud that has grounded thousands of flights across northern Europe reached Newfoundland on Monday.
However, the winds that pushed the ash to the edge of North America are expected to change direction in the next couple of days, preventing the cloud from covering more of Canada and the United States.
Airlines have suffered losses described as being worse than after the 9/11 attacks after aviation officials closed parts of Europe's airspace on fears the ash could paralyse jet engines.
"It is just skirting into the Newfoundland area over the next 12 to 18 hours," Bob Syvret, duty forecaster at the Met Office, told Reuters. "It doesn't look as if it is going to get much further west than that, just on the coast and a little further inland."
At 1728 GMT, the Met Office issued a graphic of a map with a red line showing the volcanic plume up to an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,000 metres). http://metoffice.com/aviation/vaac/data/VAG_1271698103.png.
It showed the cloud jutting south from the volcano in Iceland, covering much of northern Europe and then spreading west over the Atlantic and east over Russia.
Estimating the density of the cloud at its extremities is difficult and warnings for aviation in North America would be a matter for U.S. and Canadian officials, Syvret added.
"The cloud is most likely to drift north, away from North America and towards Greenland, or southeast and back towards the Atlantic," he said. "We don't think it is going to get any further westwards."
Canadian officials reported no ash and a U.S. official said he expected the next map from the Met Office's London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre would show the cloud east of the Canadian coast.
"The Canadian meteorological service, Environment Canada folks, are not seeing any volcanic ash or sulphur dioxide clouds," said Jeff Osiensky, the volcanic ash program manager for the U.S. National Weather Service.
Osiensky said the ash cloud was not expected to move much further toward United States or Canada.
British airspace will start to reopen to flights from 0600 GMT on Tuesday after ash levels declined, air traffic controllers said earlier on Monday.
ReutersLast Mod: 19 Nisan 2010, 22:35