However, new evidence shows there was no all-encompassing cloud and, where dust was present, it was often so thin that it posed no risk.
The satellite images demonstrate that the skies were largely clear, which will not surprise the millions who enjoyed the fine, hot weather during the flight ban.
Jim McKenna, the Civil Aviation Authority’s head of airworthiness, strategy and policy, admitted: ‘It’s obvious that at the start of this crisis there was a lack of definitive data.
‘It’s also true that for some of the time, the density of ash above the UK was close to undetectable.’
The satellite images will be used by airlines in their battle to win tens of millions of pounds in compensation from governments for their losses.
The National Air Traffic Control Service decision to ban flights was based on Met Office computer models which painted a picture of a cloud of ash being blown south from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
These models should have been tested by the Met Office’s main research plane, a BAE 146 jet, but it was in a hangar to be repainted and could not be sent up until last Tuesday – the last day of the ban.
Evidence has emerged that the maximum density of the ash was only about one 20th of the limit that scientists, the Government, and aircraft and engine manufacturers have now decided is safe.
British Airways chief Willie Walsh always insisted the total shutdown went too far.
‘My personal belief is that we could have safely continued operating for a period,’ he said.
Just think, but for a coat of paint, thousands of Britons could have been home with their families, commerce could have gone on largely as usual, and airlines (which operate on paper-thin margins as it is) would not be out tens of millions of dollars. Given the notorious precision of the models employed by the Met Office to predict weather, perhaps it would have been wise to send that plane up sans its shiny new paint job? Just a thought.
I guess we should just all be thankful that we’re not relying on the expertise of the Met Office to push broad new government powers. Based on this incident, one could imagine how the world economies might come to a grinding halt, and all based on nothing but an illusion coughed up by a computer model. Well, thank goodness, that could never happen.
The difference between KO’s “dissent is patriotic” and “accusations must be proven” pre-Obama admin motto versus his “anything goes except what I deem to be inappropriate” post-election motto (via Broliath):
Oh, and speaking of immigration, CBS News (surprisingly) pretty much nails it on how Democrats are trying to play politics in an election year by bumping up “immigration reform” as a top issue:
This was supposed to be the day that three senators – Republican Lindsey Graham, Democrat John Kerry, and Independent Joe Lieberman – unveiled their bipartisan climate and energy legislation plan.
But over the weekend Graham put the brakes on the bill. The reason was not that he no longer liked the legislation. Rather, it was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (pictured) had decided to prioritize immigration reform instead.
“Moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy,” Graham wrote in a letter to his two co-sponsors.
He has a point.
The climate bill, after all, had a legitimate chance to pass this year. In a difficult but successful vote for many members, the House passed a climate bill last June; with Graham on board and Democrats holding 59 votes in the Senate, a bill had a clear chance to pass through that chamber as well.
There are, of course, major differences between the bills in the two chambers, chief among them on the issue of cap-and-trade (the House bill includes it, and the Senate proposal does not.) Neither a Senate vote to pass the bill nor a subsequent process to reconcile the two bills would be easy. But there was a reasonable chance that the Senate could pass its version and a compromise could be hammered out, getting the legislation to the president’s desk this year.
Immigration is a different story: Nobody really expects a comprehensive bill to pass in 2010. For one, the energized Republican base is worked up enough about the prospect of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants that supporting the bill would be toxic for most GOP politicians; immigration reform is the sort of issue that could well result in an explosion of anger that makes the health care debate pale by comparison.
Supporting the bill would also be an extremely tough sell for many vulnerable House Democrats, who will not want to cast an unpopular vote in favor of “amnesty” in the run-up to the midterm elections. But the politics make more sense: Those vulnerable Democrats get an opportunity to take a strong position against a reform bill, which could help them hold on to their seats.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Reid, who is facing a tough reelection battle, gets a chance to stand with his state’s sizable Latino population, which he hopes will help him squeak through to another term. To top it off, Republicans in general end up looking bad in the eyes of Latinos, a crucial voting bloc that only gets more important with each passing year.
The calculation facing Reid was this: He could force his fellow senators to make a difficult vote on a climate bill and then deal with a tough fight to get a compromise bill to the president, a battle that would not be unlike the painful process to get a health care bill passed. Or he could push an immigration proposal that will likely not pass but which will help his party politically and may keep him from losing his seat.
The fact that Reid chose the latter is what has Graham arguing convincingly that the majority leader put politics first. Indeed, Reid’s decision may have effectively killed the push to pass a climate bill in 2010, widely seen as the best opportunity to pass legislation in light of expected Republican gains in the midterm elections. The decision “has destroyed my confidence that there will be a serious commitment and focus to move energy legislation this year,” Graham wrote.
The White House, for its part, wants a climate bill. But it is not going to stand in the way of Reid, who risked his political life by taking on the health care fight. President Obama has already signaled that he is willing to get involved in the immigration fight, and he may take action soon to discourage other states from following Arizona’s lead to pass their own tough immigration laws.
The upshot? Lawmakers appear to be embarking on a push for an immigration bill no one expects to pass while leaving a carefully-crafted climate bill out in the cold.
Whatever you think of Lindsey Graham – especially on the issue of illegal immigration, he may have very well just helped greatly hinder whatever possibility Democrats had this year of passing both “comprehensive immigration reform” (Democrat style) and cap and tax. Would much rather take up these issues under a more Republican Congress – even if we don’t get back the majority – than a Democrat Congress, and I especially would rather it be done during an “off” election year (although we have to keep in mind that next year is when all the GOP and Dem (?) hopefuls for President will be making their voices heard in advance of the 2012 Presidential election). That said, assuming we do make a lot of gains this fall, immigration reform could still be rough sailing, as it was when the Bush admin tried to tackle it in 2007, but cap and tax might effectively be DOA and a more reasonable and responsible energy plan could be under consideration by early next year.
Re: the Arizona immigration bill, please let me know your thoughts on it. On Twitter the last couple of days I’ve read a fair amount about conservatives voicing concerns about it – including prominent illegal immigration opponent Tom Tancredo, essentially saying that it may “go too far” in enabling law enforcement to stop people suspected of being illegal immigrants and “demand to see their papers.” What do you think?
Hey y’all. Sorry to have to start an open thread first of the week, but I’m having some computer issues today that are taking up a considerable amount of time. I’ll check back in when I can. Wish me luck.