October 17, 2011 – Chile’s Mount Puyehue Volcano Threatens Airline Flights in South America: Argentina and Uruguay both suspended flights at major airports Sunday due to dangerous ash from neighboring Chile’s Puyehue volcano, which has disrupted global travel. Authorities suspended or canceled numerous international flights serving the United States, Peru and Brazil at the Ezeiza airport south of the capital, hours after shutting off Jorge Newbery airport in Buenos Aires. “We need the ash cloud to pass before the airlines operating out of the airport, which serves domestic and regional flights, resume their operations,” Transport Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi told local television. Argentina’s LAN airline said in a statement that international as well as domestic flights were affected, including routs to Mendoza on the steps of the Andes Mountains toward the Chilean border, and Ushuaia in the far south. In Uruguay, 15 international flights were canceled at Montevideo’s international Carrasco airport, largely affecting flights to Chile and neighboring Argentina and Brazil. Brazilian air carriers Gol and Tam both canceled their flights Sunday to Buenos Aires and Montevideo, company officials said. Mount Puyehue rises to a height of 6,000 feet.
Puyehue Volcano started erupting on May 24, 1960. The eruption was triggered by the great earthquake in Chile on May 22, 1960. This earthquake, at a magnitude of 9.5; was the largest measured earthquake in history. The volcanic eruption started with a powerful explosive phase, which formed an ash column 26,000 feet high. Is the current eruption of Mount Puyehue a precursor to another enormous earthquake, a major volcanic explosion or both?
Air traffic in the southern hemisphere has been hit hard in recent months. Airports in Buenos Aires and Montevideo and later those in Australia and New Zealand were paralyzed when the Mount Puyehue volcano, high in the Andes, roared back to life in June after sleeping dormant for half a century. Since June most airports in Argentina have been forced into shutdowns at some point due to dangerous ash threatening the safety of commercial airliners. The ash cloud also dampened hopes of a good tourist season at the Argentine ski resort of Bariloche, some 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires and just 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Puyehue, as flights were canceled and pristine snow was darkened by the spewing volcano. Ash poses a significant threat to aircraft engine performance. When the ash is sucked into a typical fan-jet engine, it is transformed into molten glass by the high temperatures and causes an engine to fail. The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokul last year caused the greatest shutdown of air space in peacetime Europe, with more than 100,000 flights canceled and eight million passengers affected. The 2010 eruptions of Mount Eyjafjallajokul caused enormous disruptions to air travel across western and northern Europe in April and May, 2010. Ash covered large areas of northern Europe. About 20 countries closed their airspace and it affected hundreds of thousands of travelers. The European flights avoided over 340,000 tons of CO2 emissions per day, emitted by the volcano. This cost the airlines $2 billion dollars and again reflected the vulnerability of the people of the Earth to the cataclysmic events displayed by nature.
The Master of Disaster