The Civil Aviation Authority announced the closure on Twitter, saying that they took the decision as a result of “the change of wind direction from south to north and the increase of the Pacaya’s volcanic activity, and the rise in ashfall.”
According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the measure was taken following the recommendation of the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) which announced the increase of volcanic ash in many areas of the capital.
“So far, nine aircrafts have been affected and remain grounded, one flight coming from Los Angeles, California, United States, was diverted to El Salvador,” Guatemala’s Civil Aviation Authority said.
In a video posted to his Twitter account, Civil Aviation Director Francis Argueta said it was not clear how long the closure would last but that authorities “hope to resume the airport operations as soon as possible.”
Encounters between aircraft and volcanic ash can happen 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 drift great distances from their source.
The ingestion of volcanic ash by engines may cause serious deterioration of engine performance due to erosion of moving parts and partial or complete blocking of fuel nozzles.
Volcanic ash contains particles, whose melting point is below that of an engine’s internal temperature. During flight these particles will immediately melt if they go through an engine. Going through the turbine, the melted materials rapidly cool down, stick on the turbine vanes, and disturb the flow of high-pressure combustion gases.
CNN’s Kara Fox and Paul Armstrong contributed to this report.