Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Thursday, 6 May 2010 16:47 UK

Images show volcano intensifying

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News


BBC science reporter Victoria Gill describes the volcanic ash plume images

The UK Met Office has released a vivid series of images that show the Eyjafjallajokull volcano intensifying.

In the satellite pictures, which use infrared wavelengths, the ash plume appears as bright orange colours spreading out from the volcano.

The plume gradually increased in size over a period of approximately six hours on Thursday morning.

This animation is made up of a series of 13 images captured every 30 minutes from 0600 BST.

The Met Office confirmed that activity from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano had been increasing since Wednesday night, taking the ash plume to a height over 30,000 ft.

But the UK's air traffic control authority, Nats, said that the high density area of the volcanic ash cloud was now lying "off the west of Ireland" and that, as a result there were currently no restrictions within UK airspace.

A Met Office spokesperson also said that the winds forecast over the next few days were likely "to keep the plume out to the west".

New clarity

Dr Jim Haywood, an aerosol research scientist from the Met Office explained that it had previously not been possible to capture such clear pictures.

"This is the best set of images of the plume that I've seen," said Dr Haywood, who has been monitoring the ash plume since the volcanic eruption entered its explosive phase on 14 April, and began to release the plume of ash that has caused so many problems in the UK.

"The reason it's so clear is that there's no cloud around at the moment," he explained.

"If there is any cloud above or below the plume, it's much more difficult to see."

Because it was exploding through a glacier, the Eyjafjallajokull eruption had been creating its own cirrus cloud.

"It appears now there's a clean clear signal because all of the ice above the volcano has melted," said Dr Haywood.

In the rest of the image, low clouds appear predominantly yellow, while high ice clouds appear dark red, brown or black.

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