Today, the skies above my home in England are noticeably empty. The UK air traffic authorities and many others across Europe have closed the airspace due to safety fears from an enormous ash cloud originating from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland - around 1000 miles from London. No flights are allowed in or out and this will remain the case until at least Friday afternoon.

Friends elsewhere around the world were asking me to describe what it was like, but conditions are relatively clear where I am so even I couldn't fully understand or explain the scope. Of course, I naturally turned to satellite imagery to get a better sense of the situation. The NASA MODIS Rapid Response system collected an image earlier this afternoon showing the eruption site sending a huge plume of ash up into the atmosphere towards Europe - and major airways used by thousands of aircraft each day. This image has been made available for download in Google Earth, which you can see by clicking on this KML file.

Courtesy of NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response

Our partners at GeoEye have also added high-resolution imagery from March 31st of the actual eruption site at Eyjafjallajoekull to the GeoEye Featured Imagery layer. To access it, open Google Earth, open the More category in the Layers panel, and turn on GeoEye Featured Imagery. Then search for Iceland, click on the GeoEye logo at the south end of the island, and then click "View Full Resolution Image in Google Earth" in the window that pops up:

click to see full-size

We're also closely following the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Qinghai, China and are currently working to acquire and publish imagery. We will share it on this blog as soon as it becomes available; in the meantime please visit our Crisis Response page for the earthquake.

Update, 4/20: We've added new imagery, taken by GeoEye-1 on April 17, to Google Earth. Turn on the "Places of Interest" layer, navigate to Iceland, and click the blue logo to view the imagery. Here's a preview: