Volcanic ash could threaten travel for Penn State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s travel plans for its Ireland game against Central Florida remain the same as concerns heighten regarding Icelandic volcano Bardarbunga.

“Over the past several days we have been talking with officials from UCF, the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) and United Airlines, our charter provider,” the school said in a statement Saturday night. “We continue to monitor the situation and maintain regular communication with all appropriate parties.

“The safety and welfare of our student-athletes, staff and fans will be at the forefront throughout our discussions. At this time, we are continuing our preparations for the game and for the team to depart Tuesday evening for Dublin.”

Saturday morning, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) ruled that Bardarbunga had experienced a minor eruption and increased the aviation code over the volcano — located in central Iceland — to red, the highest level.

But did it actually erupt? According to a team of scientists who viewed the volcano from helicopter, it did not. Geophysics professor Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson told the Icelandic National Broadcasting service there were no signs of melting that would often occur after an eruption below the glacier.

“The most likely conclusion is an eruption has not yet begun, whatever happens later in this event,” he said.

The IMO later announced there were no signs of volcanic activity, but said “an imminent eruption cannot be excluded.”

An eruption would cause trouble for European flights — as it did with Mt. Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 — if the magma breaks through the glacier enclosing the volcano and the ensuing volcanic ash spreads through the air.

Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.

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