Iceland Volcano Ash Coming to America

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Millions of tons of ash from a volcano in Iceland that have grounded planes across Europe is traveling towards North America, government officials report.

The latest satellite projections from the U.K.'s Met Office, which monitors volcanic eruptions as part of a global network of Ash Advisory Centers, show the ash cloud already reaching as far as Newfoundland, explained Bob Syvret, a forecaster for the agency.

"The latest graphics that we've issued suggest that the tail end of the plume might just get into the far east of the Newfoundland area," he told

But breathe easier, travellers: "It doesn't look a risk for North America" at this point, said Syvret, adding that the cloud would "probably stop around the Newfoundland area, and then move north into Greenland."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the report from the Met Office, noting that the Met's projections "do show an extension westward across the North Atlantic."

But Jeff Osiensky, NOAA's volcanic ash program manager, explained that the projected regions don't denote ash clouds hovering over the country. The maps are advisory areas primarily based on models, he said, and discussions with the Canadian Met Office confirmed his suspicions.

"There's no indication of volcanic ash anywhere near Newfoundland. No observational type data to support that right now."

Up to 63,000 flights have been cancelled in Europe due to the volcanic eruption at Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which has spewed dust and ash across the country at a tremendous rate. Within the first 72 hours of the eruption, Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences reported the average discharge rate of ash at 750 tons per second -- a rate that could fill Yankee Stadium every few seconds.

Syvret explained that it was difficult to accurately measure the volume of ash in the air, but nonetheless believed that the situation shouldn't pose a threat to American airports.

"It shouldn't get any worse," he told

A representative for the FAA explained that the administration hadn't issued any formal statements yet, but were watching the situation.

Scientists noted Monday morning that the ash plume rising above Iceland's erupting volcano was now reaching a height of about 1.2 miles. Last week, the tower of ash was as high as 6.8 miles.

"The situation is definitely better than it was particularly on Saturday, which was a difficult day for us due to heavy ash fall just south of the volcano," said Urdur Gudmundsdottir, a spokeswoman at the foreign ministry.

But Gudmundsdottir was careful to avoid saying the worst was over for the island of 320,000 -- and for the tens of thousands of people stranded at airports for the past five days.

"As you know, things are changing very quickly," she said.

An official at the Meteorological Office said ash production had fallen sharply and the nature of the eruption appeared to be changing.

"Our web cameras show that there is not much ash but mostly steam now," said Hjorleifur Sveinbjornsson, a geologist at the Meteorological Office. "The color of the steam is brown but also quite white so it is more like water vaporizing."

There was still a risk, however, that molten rock could create new pathways for water to run into the crater, causing more explosions and a higher level of ash production, he said.

Scientists flying above the volcano told the Met Office lava had burst from the crater and onto the Eyjafjallajokull glacier that sits atop the volcano. The glacier, about 75 miles southeast of Reykjavik, is normally a popular hiking ground.

A reporter flying overhead in a helicopter told state radio the volcano was spitting chunks of lava as big as a jeep.

Reuters contributed to this report.