A volcanic eruption under Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajokull, forced the closure of the main international airport in Iceland, the second disruption in 13 months to the island nation’s air traffic.

The eruption sent an ash plume more than 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) into the air, causing delays today of some Scandinavian trans-Atlantic flights. “We expect the ash cloud to enter Norwegian airspace over the course of the night,” said Jens Petter Duestad, chief of control centers for Norwegian airport operator Avinor.

Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport was shut down this morning amid fears that the ash plume might damage jet engines. The halt grounded 11 airplanes in Iceland, affecting about 2,000 passengers. Another 13 airplanes will be unable to land in the country.

An eruption began at about 6 p.m. yesterday in a Grimsvotn Lake crater underneath Vatnajokull, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Reykjavik. The volcano is the most active in Iceland and its last eruption ended in 2004.

Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption on April 14, 2010, closed European airspace for six days at a cost of $1.7 billion, according to an estimate then by the International Air Transport Association. Iceland, with about 320,000 inhabitants, is one of the world’s most volcanically and geologically active countries and eruptions are frequent.

No U.K. Impact

Yesterday’s eruption hasn’t had an impact on the U.K.’s airspace and no routes or airports have been closed, said Aarti Parajia, a spokeswoman for National Air Traffic Services Ltd., in a telephone interview.

Eurocontrol, which oversees flight paths in the region, said in an e-mailed statement there is currently no impact on European or trans-Atlantic flights with the situation expected to remain so for the next 24 hours.

“The airspace over Iceland is closed, so you have to fly around it,” Mikkel Thrane, a spokesman for Scandinavian airline SAS, said in a telephone interview. “There have been no cancellations.”

The ash is spreading to the south and east, according to a statement from the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland.

“The height of the initial plume in the present eruption, 17 kilometers, is much higher than in a preceding eruption at Grimsvotn in 2004,” according to the statement. “The present plume is also higher than recorded in the Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland last year.”

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