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Iceland's volcanic ash cloud to cover British air space today

Authorities have already grounded more than 250 flights as a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland's Grímsvötn volcano covers British air space. They appear better prepared to limit the fallout after last year's Iceland volcano disruption.

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A passenger sat by the check-in desk after flights were canceled at Edinburgh Airport in Edinburgh, Scotland Tuesday. A dense ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano blew toward Scotland, causing airlines to cancel Tuesday flights and raising fears of a repeat of last year's huge travel disruptions in Europe that stranded millions of passengers.

Scott Heppell/AP

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An ash cloud from Iceland's Grímsvötn volcano has already grounded more than 250 flights to and from Scotland and Northern Ireland and is expected to cover all of the United Kingdom's air space by the end of Tuesday.

The eruption of Grímsvötn on Saturday evening is believed to have been 100 to 1,000 times more powerful than that of another Iceland volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, which last April spewed an ash cloud that covered wide swaths of Europe, grounding thousands of flights, stranding travelers for days, and costing the airline industry billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Despite the strength of the Grímsvötn eruption, however, the concentration of ash in the air is much lower than after last year's Eyjafjallajökull eruption and is not expected to wreak as much havoc on air travel overall. Authorities also appear better prepared to limit the fallout after learning lessons from last year.

IN PICTURES: Grímsvötn volcano erupts

“Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of people both onboard aircraft and on the ground,” says Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). “We can’t rule out disruption, but the new arrangements that have been put in place since last year’s ash cloud will help to reduce any disruption in the event that volcanic ash affects UK airspace.”

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