According to the Civil Aviation Administration of Guatemala, La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala has been temporarily closed after adverse wind conditions brought ash from the nearby and active Pacaya volcano on its way.
The civil aviation authority announced the closure on Twitter, saying it made the decision based on “the change in wind direction from south to north and the increase in volcanic activity of the Pacaya and the increase in ash fall.”
The 2,569 meter high volcano is located approximately 30 miles south of the airport and has been active for the past few weeks.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the measure was taken on the recommendation of the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH), which heralded the rise in volcanic ash in many areas of the capital.
“So far, nine aircraft have been affected and remain on the ground. A flight from Los Angeles, California, USA, has been diverted to El Salvador,” said the civil aviation authority of Guatemala.
In a video posted on his Twitter account, civil aviation director Francis Argueta said it was not clear how long the closure would last, but authorities “hope to resume airport operations as soon as possible”.
Volcanic ash clouds pose a serious hazard to aviation as they impair vision, damage flight controls and ultimately lead to engine failure.
Airplane encounters and volcanic ash can occur because ash clouds are difficult to distinguish from ordinary clouds, both visually and on radar, according to the US Geological Survey. Ash clouds can also be great distances from their source.
The ingestion of volcanic ash by engines can cause severe engine performance degradation due to the erosion of moving parts and partial or total blockage of the fuel nozzles.
Volcanic ash contains particles whose melting point is below the internal temperature of an engine. In flight, these particles melt instantly when they run through an engine. As the molten materials pass through the turbine, they quickly cool, adhere to the turbine blades and disrupt the flow of high pressure combustion gases.
CNN’s Kara Fox and Paul Armstrong contributed to this report.