Iceland, soon to be Ashland

Another eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland, another round of air traffic closures.

Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Iceland download large image (3 MB, JPEG)

After more than a week of relatively subdued activity in late April, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull Volcano began a fresh round of explosive ash eruptions in the first week of May. On the morning of May 6, 2010, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this view of a thick plume of ash blowing east and then south from the volcano. Clouds bracket the edges of the scene, but the dark blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean show in the middle, and above them, a rippling, brownish-yellow river of ash.

Ash clouds like this are impressive to see, and they can have a dramatic influence on air quality and vegetation, including crops. In Iceland, the ash from Eyjafjallajokull has settled thickly on the ground, posing a threat to livestock and wildlife. The risk of engine damage due to ash has grounded European air traffic repeatedly.

Despite their dramatic appearance, however, these ash plumes are insignificant when it comes to long-term affects on global climate. What matters most to the climate isn’t even visible in images like this. For an eruption to have an influence on global climate, the event must be explosive enough to push sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which is above the altitude where rain and snow occur.

Sulfur dioxide turns into tiny droplets of sulfuric acid. These light-colored droplets cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight back to space. Because it doesn’t rain in the stratosphere, the droplets can linger for months or years. Massive eruptions can cool the global average surface temperature by several degrees for several years.

In most cases, though, high-latitude eruptions have little influence on global climate even when they are explosive enough to inject sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere; the reflective particles rarely have a chance to spread around the globe. Stratospheric air generally rises above tropical latitudes, spreads toward the poles, and then sinks back toward the lower atmosphere at high latitudes.

This circulation pattern means that stratospheric particles from eruptions in the tropics have a better chance of spreading all around the world, while particles from high-latitude eruptions are more likely to quickly sink back to lower altitudes. When they re-enter the troposphere, they are rapidly washed out of the atmosphere by rain and snow. Eyjafjallajokull’s high-latitude location means that its eruption probably won’t influence the global climate significantly.

Story from NASA Earth Observsatory

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72 thoughts on “Iceland, soon to be Ashland

  1. The EyeFullofAsh Volcano certainly has an effect on Global Air Traffic, being that the whole system pancackes onto itself when European airtraffic is grounded.

  2. The ash is pretty far reaching too as Israel is taking emergency precautions against these eruptions. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2010/05/10/2394737/volcanic-ash-cloud-nears-israel
    “JERUSALEM (JTA) — A volcanic ash cloud that has closed airports throughout Europe is set to reach Israel.
    The Israeli Transportation Ministry has begun emergency preparations for the volcanic ash cloud, which is expected to hit Israel on Monday night, according to reports.
    The ministry may cancel airline flights due to the situation, Ynet reported.
    Thousands of flights throughout Europe were canceled last month as a result of the cloud, formed after the eruption of the Mount Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland. Some airports also were forced to close this week.
    It is feared that volcanic ash can damage an airplane’s engines. “

  3. Anthony — very professional of you to cite RC as a reference. It was one of the better discussions I’ve read there and I detected a “kinder, gentler” Gavin. Perhaps there’s hope yet for civility on all sides.

  4. Looks like Europe just blew all the money devoted to pollution controls for the last century or so. The lesson, we don’t do it for Gaia, we do it to quit coughing.
    Any evidence the nearby volcano is teaming up yet? Isn’t it believed that the next door bigger volcano shares the same lava reservoir? And isn’t it supposed to be the bigger one? I read in the news reports they seem to go off in pairs.

  5. “For an eruption to have an influence on global climate, the event must be explosive enough to push sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which is above the altitude where rain and snow occur.” What is the height reached by this volcanoe’s erruptions? Are scientists monitoring the amount of SO2 being released?

  6. mike says:
    May 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm
    anyone know a good link for live ash cloud tracking? (my sis is stuck in spain!)

    This site is pretty good, it corresponds well with the visible plume where there are no clouds. My wife’s flight to Edinburg was cancelled early in the week and I checked it out and MODIS to see when she’d be able to go.
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/aviation/vaac/vaacuk_vag.html

  7. As Joe D’Aleo at ICECAP notes, a major eruption in Iceland, especially from Eyjafjallajokull’s larger neighbor, Katla, could impact the climate in the Northern Hemisphere.
    “ICECAP NOTE: It is true that tropical volcanism has more global impact as the ash and aerosols travel north and south and affect most of the globe while high latitude volcanoes find ash and gases limited more to the higher latitudes and tend to have effects that don’t last as long. But research by Oman (2005) showed northern hemispheric high latitude volcanoes influence the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillations which can have a profound effect on the climate as we saw last summer and then this past winter with Redoubt and Sarychev and may this summer and next winter with Eyjafjallajokull, especially if the eruptions continue and become stronger and if it excites nearby larger Katla into action as past eruptions have. The stratosphere is lower in the polar regions than in the tropics where eruptions need to get well above 55,000 feet to have long term impact. In the polar regions a 30,000-40,000 foot ash and aerosol cloud can have impact. Some of the biggest eruptions in April and again May 6th reached above 30,000 feet. Read more on high latitude volcanoes here. “

  8. Expat in France says:
    May 10, 2010 at 12:37 pm
    Ah, but if Katla erupts…
    ___________________________________________________
    This site seems to have some information but I am not sure how truthful they are. They talked of a “major” earthquake at Katla but the only information I could find said it was around a 2.
    “(5/5/10)Today, the activity in Iceland
    ……The 2 small earthquakes at Eyja are nothing out of the ordinary during an eruption, but what is interesting is that Katla also experienced a small quake within a short amount of time of the Eyja quakes…..
    If you would like to review the earthquake data, it is available at this link:
    http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/earthquakes/myrdalsjokull/

    Read more: http://scienceray.com/earth-sciences/iceland-volcano-katla-and-eyjafjallajokull-earthquakes-update-5710/#ixzz0nYj3Nisn

  9. So…all green europeans becoming gray. Interesting times indeed, hope for more skeptic behaviour from mother gaia. Check for Cancun´s closest volcanoes…just in case.

  10. Ashland, Pennsylvania seems just fine right now. That’s where you”ll find the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train tours. Go deep inside an actual anthracite coal mine, far away from wi-fi and cell phone reception, if you dare.
    I love this note on the Schedules page:

    A reminder about clothing-
    The temperature inside the coal mine averages 52 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the tour season, so we recommend that you bring a sweater or jacket. If necessary, we will gladly provide you with one to wear.

    The way temps have been running lately here in central PA, inside a coal mine is running warmer than the outdoors. You might have to take a layer off!

  11. The volcano has indeed affected air traffic in Europe mainland, more so than in Iceland. The main international airport in Keflavik (near Reykjavik) has only been closed for a few days, but the airport in Akureyri has been open at the same time so the country has really never been isolated.
    The volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull glacier is localized to a small
    part of the country – directly affecting only around 2 dozens of farmsteads
    or so. Some ash has fallen in the small village Vík where about 300 persons live.
    Day-to-day life continues here in Iceland apart from the directly affected areas
    of the volcanic eruption in south Iceland, businesses are open as usual and
    society at large functions normally.
    FAQ: http://www.iceland.is/qanda/nr/8320

  12. ‘Sulfur dioxide turns into tiny droplets of sulfuric acid.’
    pfft, sulfur dioxide turns into mirrors, and sulfur acid is what humans out gassed in the 80’s, hence the acid rain back then, just ask the greenies. :p

  13. I wuold like to know what does this closing of airports mean again. Who’s game is it? If one looks at the satelite (Eumetsat animation – may 4-9 <a href="http://xmarinx.sweb.cz//volcanic-dust-04-05-10-to-09-05-10-v2.gif&quot; title=”http://xmarinx.sweb.cz//volcanic-dust-04-05-10-to-09-05-10-v2.gif” rel=”nofollow”> – one quite clearly sees the ash was circling between Iceland and Greenland last 5 days and one minor branch of the cloud went slightly through northern Spain and dissipated then in western mediteranean, so one much doesn’t understand why they’re shutting airports in the central Europe. Moreover there was this in the Czech media: “Transatlantic flights will be diverted through Greenland, declares the european agency Eurocontrol.” Why the heck would they send the airplanes on transantlantic lines in the most extreme ash concentration area – as quite clearly shows the satelite – and at the same time close central European airports – some thousands miles from Iceland, where no significant ash cloud can be detected? Classical eurobureaucracy stunt or something more? Anybody?
    There were reports that actually there are multiple NATO military drills in several European countries including Germany going on. Do they need the clear skies?

  14. Can it, Katla. It doesn’t have to get that cold that fast. We’ve got ’em on the run.
    ======

  15. Ash tracking: http://www.weatheronline.co.uk/cgi-app/volcanic?LANG=en&ART=0
    I’ve been keeping an eye on this since I have some travel coming up. The first set of airspace closures only meant an 8 hour train journey home instead of a 1 hour flight for me, but this time it would be “do I get to go?” and “if I do, can I get home again?”
    The live streaming webcams of the volcano are cool (the first link also has an infrared camera):
    http://eldgos.mila.is/eyjafjallajokull-fra-thorolfsfelli/
    http://eldgos.mila.is/eyjafjallajokull-fra-hvolsvelli/

  16. Very beautiful picture!
    Now we need to wait two years and then upload it to, say the wikipedia together with a text that says it’s the exhaust from a new aluminium smeltering plant on Iceland…

  17. Iceland is like the hotrod going down the road–they’re pretty much immune to the ash outpouring. Those behind them, downwind, are not so lucky.

  18. Environmental impacts over an extended period of time of activity over Iceland and the EU are probably not going to be good. Travel delays and reroutes will be a nasty problem, as well. The constant feed of ash and gases into the lower and middle atmosphere affecting millions of people for weeks or months is going to take a toll. Icelandic eruptions are never good for this region of the world.

  19. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    May 10, 2010 at 1:15 pm
    52F underground is cold. Add the requisite ventilation requirements out in main haulage, and one needs a heavy coat plus thermals to stand up to the windchill. Don’t get your feet wet, pard.

  20. Is this a genuine risk or just an over reaction? I find it difficult to comprehend how ash from a relatively small eruption can affect aircraft over 3000 [Iceland to Israel] miles away! If this is a precedent then if a few volcanoes around the world go off simultaneously then we could have a global shutdown for months. Why do I get the feeling that without supercomputers and modelling we wouldn’t be so concerned. And [as historically] for aircraft a reasonable distance away there would be no problems.
    cheers David

  21. O/T speaking of volcanoes and earthquakes:

    During the month of April 2010, 117 earthquakes were located in the Yellowstone region. The largest event was a magnitude 3.3 on April 3rd at 9:15 PM MDT, located about 7 miles east southeast of West Yellowstone, MT. This event was part of a swarm which lasted from April 1st to the 7th. The swarm contained 52 earthquakes, with magnitudes 0.4 to 3.3. This latest swarm is considered part of the intense January/February Madison Plateau 2010 earthquake swarm that contained more than 2,300 earthquakes. A summary of the Madison Plateau swarm can be found at: “
    http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/yvo/publications/2010/10swarm.php
    http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/yvo/
    Also if you want to track earthquakes during the last 48 hours in Iceland try:
    http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/earthquakes/myrdalsjokull/

  22. I received this e-mail from a friend. I can’t verify the facts, but the implications are interesting.
    Bob
    Interesting observations
    For all of you out there in America and across the globe who have fought so hard to tackle the hideous enemy of our planet, namely carbon emissions, that bogus god you worship named “Climate Change” or “Global Warming”, there is some really bad news that will be very painful for you to process. But it is my duty to pass it on to you anyway.
    Are you sitting down?
    Okay, here’s the bombshell. The current volcanic eruption going on in Iceland, since it first started spewing volcanic ash a week ago, has, to this point, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet. Not only that, this single act of God has added emissions to the earth estimated to be 42 times more than can be corrected by the extreme human regulations proposed for annual reductions.
    I know, I know…. (have a group hug)…it’s very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up til midnight to finish your kid’s “The Green Revolution” science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, going on vacation to a city park instead of Yosemite, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your $1 light bulbs with $10 light bulbs …well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just the past week.
    The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in the past week has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon. And, those hundreds of thousands of American jobs you helped move to Asia with expensive emissions demands on businesses… you know, the ones that are creating even more emissions than when they were creating American jobs, well that must seem really worthwhile now.
    I’m so sorry. And I do wish that there was some kind of a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud but the fact of the matter is that the brush fire season across the western U.S.A. will start in about two months and those fires will negate your efforts to reduce carbon emissions in our world for the next two years.
    So, grab a Coke, give the world a hug, and have a nice day!

  23. One of the best volcano blogs around with a good mixture of specialists and amatures
    http://scienceblogs.com/eruptions/2010/05/eyjafjallajokull_continues_to.php
    Exerpt from todays comments
    ‘Apart from the fact that the eruption is continuing and there have been a few interesting eartquake swarms, not much is happening at the moment as can be evidenced from the amount of ideas bandied about. So how about we organise those possible scenarios according to probability with the most likely first and the improbable last and then argue about it?
    a) The eruption will continue for some time (weeks to months) and then die down with the possibility of renewed activity on a minor scale
    b) The eruption will continue as alternative a) but there will be an unexpected, major eruptive episode (VEI 4+)
    c) The eruption will continue but one or more new vents, not neccessarily at the summit, will open up
    d) There will be a basaltic intrusion at the Godabunga “cryptodome” which sets off a large eruption there (VEI 3+)
    e) An intrusion from the Eyjafjalla volcanic system will set off an equally large or larger eruption at Katla (VEI 4+)
    f) A rift will open up across the mountain and into Markarfljot (N) and Þórsmörk (S), as has happened in the distant past and we’ll have a fissure eruption of the Eldgja or Laki type
    g) An intrusion from the Eyjafjalla volcanic system sets off a major eruption of Tindfjallajökull volcano (the northern “arm” of the Feb-March EQ swarms)
    h) There will be a very large eruption (VEI 6+) at Eyjafjallajökull that forms a large caldera, 7+ km diameter
    I’ll stick with alternative a) but think d) & f) are distant possibilities. What’s your favourite of these or do you have other scenarios?’
    Good way to keep up with Icelandic events, averaging over 600 comments per day.

  24. “In most cases, though, high-latitude eruptions have little influence on global climate even when they are explosive enough to inject sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere”
    So does that mean the AGW crowd won’t try and blame the current cooling trend on this or similar eruptions?

  25. homo sapiens, soon to be toast. this is how you get published!
    10 May: USA Today: Report: Climate change could render much of world uninhabitable
    A worst-case scenario of global warming, in which temperatures would soar some 21 degrees, is that much of the world may simply become too hot for humans to live in, according to new research published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
    “We found that … a 21-degree warming would put half of the world’s population in an uninhabitable environment,”says study co-author Matthew Huber of Purdue University…
    The new research calculated the highest tolerable “wet-bulb” temperature that humans can withstand.
    “The wet-bulb limit is basically the point at which one would overheat even if they were naked in the shade, soaking wet and standing in front of a large fan,” says study lead author Steven Sherwood of the University of New South Wales in Sydney…
    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2010/05/report-climate-change-could-render-much-of-world-uninhabitable/1
    11 May: Sydney Morning Herald: Too hot to live: grim long-term prediction
    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/too-hot-to-live-grim-longterm-prediction-20100510-uoqw.html

  26. rbateman said on May 10, 2010 at 1:58 pm:

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    May 10, 2010 at 1:15 pm
    52F underground is cold. Add the requisite ventilation requirements out in main haulage, and one needs a heavy coat plus thermals to stand up to the windchill. Don’t get your feet wet, pard.

    I’ve taken that tour twice so far, back when I was a school kid. It was very bearable with just a light jacket, and there wasn’t really any “wind” to notice.
    Besides, did you forget those old sayings showing the relative nature of those temperatures, or are said sayings just a “local” thing in these “cold” temperate zones? “When it gets cold enough to put on a sweater in fall is when it gets warm enough to take off a sweater in spring.” Various wording exist of the same thought.

  27. Kim (1:23pm) says:
    “Can it, Katla. It doesn’t have to get that cold that fast. We’ve got ‘em on the run.”
    I’m hoping to be one of the last survivors on Snowball Earth, shivering in a cave, wrapped in a blanket, muttering, “Gore, Hansen, Mann and Jones… huh….. not so smart now, are yer? Re – SULT!”

  28. Thanks Dr. Bob, nice to have someone keep things in perspective. Where’s my Coke, oh, there it is… Toast! (And now a big burp of tasty CO2!)

  29. “Sulfur dioxide turns into tiny droplets of sulfuric acid. These light-colored droplets cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight back to space.”
    OMG, that sounds just like…VENUS! CO2 increasing, sulfuric acid increasing, oceans overheating…the Venusians are obviously “venus-forming” our planet! James Hansen tried to warn us, but we didn’t listen!

  30. Brent Hargreaves says:
    May 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm
    Kim (1:23pm) says:
    “Can it, Katla. It doesn’t have to get that cold that fast. We’ve got ‘em on the run.”>>
    Ever notice that most skeptics think that some warming would be a good thing anyway, but hope for cooling to prove the warmists wrong. The warmists on the other hand think cooling would be a good thing, but hope for warming to prove the skeptics wrong.
    The whole world, she be all so up mixed direction not out figured up.

  31. Sulfur dioxide turns into tiny droplets of sulfuric acid.
    But SO2 would only form sulfurous acid. Does the SO2 pick up the extra oxygen at high altitude? Or what is the mechanism?

  32. Both Joe Bastardi of Accuwx & Joe D’Aleo (of Icecap & Dr Dewpoint fame) would disagree on the climate conclusions. Both would argue high latitude volcanoes effect the AO & NAO, causing a blocky pattern like we saw last winter – downward forcing of the troposphere at high latitudes & forcing of cold air into the mid-latitudes, while leaving the high latitudes relatively warm. Both were forecasted that pattern for this previous winter based on high latitude volcanoes in Alaska & Russia last summer – and they were spot on with those forecasts.
    That being said, I don’t think the ejecta in going high enough yet – nothing getting into the stratosphere, at least that I have seen reported.
    For an excellent discussion on this subject by D’Aleo, please see:
    http://icecap.us/images/uploads/High_latitude_eruptions.pdf

  33. I propose that the EPA ban volcanoes….. If you can ban CO2, you can ban anything;-)

  34. Kirk Myers says:
    May 10, 2010 at 4:28 pm
    Great pictures in that link you provided. Some just sent a chill down my spine because of the sheer grandeur of nature’s power and immensity. Thanks for posting them!

  35. Dr Bob
    Very well put Bob. I went to the hardware store today and saw all those silly bulbs and had an angry feeling. Messed up my whole day. How can so many folks be so stupid?

  36. From: http://www.tos.org/oceanography/issues/issue_archive/issue_pdfs/23_1/23-1_staudigel2.pdf
    On underwater seamounts that have formed from volcanoes: “…that have not
    yet shoaled enough to be dominated by
    shallow-water explosive activity (which
    starts at ~ 700-m water depth). There
    may be hundreds of thousands of such
    seamounts (Wessel et al., 2010)”
    So what we are seeing from Iceland could be happening in countless places underwater everyday and we have no idea it’s happening. Maybe this, not fossil fuels, explains the rising CO2.

  37. davidc said on May 10, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    From: http://www.tos.org/oceanography/issues/issue_archive/issue_pdfs/23_1/23-1_staudigel2.pdf
    On underwater seamounts that have formed from volcanoes: “…that have not
    yet shoaled enough to be dominated by shallow-water explosive activity (which
    starts at ~ 700-m water depth). There may be hundreds of thousands of such
    seamounts (Wessel et al., 2010)”
    So what we are seeing from Iceland could be happening in countless places underwater everyday and we have no idea it’s happening. Maybe this, not fossil fuels, explains the rising CO2.

    But that leaves us to explain why now? (Why has such volcanic activity only occurred during the last 50 years or so?)

  38. hulme quote at the end might qualify as a comment of the week!
    11 May: BBC: Richard Black: Academics urge radical new approach to climate change
    In an article for the BBC’s Green Room series, another of the authors, Mike Hulme, writes: “Climate change has been represented as a conventional environmental ‘problem’ that is capable of being ‘solved’.
    “It is neither of these. Yet this framing has locked the world into the rigid agenda that brought us to the dead end of Kyoto, with no evidence of any discernable acceleration of decarbonisation whatsoever.”
    The academics advocate concentrating first on short-term fixes for greenhouse gases or other warming agents, such as black carbon – particles emitted from the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, principally in diesel engines and wood stoves….
    He (Bill Hare from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany)
    also questioned the fact that the Hartwell Paper initiative was co-funded by Keidenran Nippon, the Japanese industry lobby group that has regularly opposed the establishment of binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, instead promoting voluntary initiatives.
    But Prof (Muke) Hulme denied any link between the group’s funding and its conclusions.
    “The names of the co-authors suggest to me – and I am one of them so I can certainly speak for myself – individuals who resist all attempts to be cowed into adopting anyone else’s viewpoint, whether from a paymaster, priest, president, princess or prophet,” he said.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10106362.stm

  39. It’s purely coincidental, but Ashland, New Hampshire has a granite monument (carved out a glacial erratic) commemorating the Year without a Summer due to the last Tambora eruption.
    http://wermenh.com/1816.html
    Of course, it’s the SO2, not the ash, but SO2land just doesn’t sound right, and it was Ashland before Tambora exploded.

  40. From Ric Werme on May 10, 2010 at 9:55 pm:

    It’s purely coincidental, but Ashland, New Hampshire has a granite monument (carved out a glacial erratic) commemorating the Year without a Summer due to the last Tambora eruption.
    (…)

    Ah New Hampshire, with the famous “The Old Man of the Mountain” natural rock formation that was featured on their State Quarter released in 2000. Quite impressive.
    Or at least it was, until that feature fell off the mountain in 2003 due to global warming.
    😉

  41. Richard Sharpe May 10, 2010 at 7:58 pm
    But that leaves us to explain why now? (Why has such volcanic activity only occurred during the last 50 years or so?)
    The volcanic activity has been occurring all along — it’s only been during the last half-century that we’ve had the instruments to detect them at the depths most of them are located.
    Surtsey is a pretty good example — the initial eruption took place in 19

  42. snip-snippety-snip twitchy server!
    The volcanic island of Surtsey is a pretty good example — the initial eruption took place in 1963 and continued until 1967 — if it hadn’t started in such shallow water (130 meters or so), we’d likely never have known about it.

  43. Does anyone know what the composition of the ash is? I have predicted that dust deposition rich in zinc and/or cadmium leachates will switch plankton fixation towards C3 from C4, which will discriminate against 13C (and 14C of course). If there’s a lot of those metals going into the ocean then it’s possible there’ll be an isotopic signal.
    Is anyone looking?
    JF

  44. I thought it was very considerate of the volcano to hold off for the UK general election day. Climate change also was put on hold as Gordon Brown made two return journeys by private jet from London to his constituency in Scotland. Other party leaders also re-prioritised their commitment to carbon neutrality in the interests of being driven around in Jags complete with entourages of 4X4 vehicles.
    Going back to the ash cloud, I think they are trying to stop air travel in Europe. This is primarily by the ash cloud modelling but are also engineering a strike by BA crews. The EU of course is in financial meltdown, but public disorder is so far confined to Greece……

  45. Off topic courtesy of Gail Combs but isn’t Yellowstone one giant volcano waiting to blow?

  46. jack morrow says: (May 10, 2010 at 7:23 pm)
    “Dr Bob
    Very well put Bob. I went to the hardware store today and saw all those silly bulbs and had an angry feeling. Messed up my whole day. How can so many folks be so stupid?”
    My sentiments exactly: “How can so many folks be so stupid?”

  47. I read a thing a while back talking about the stratosphere and how it figured into the US’s defense of nukes coming in from Russia over the poles. The discussion talked about how the stratosphere was lower at the poles, higher in the tropics…Basing what we have heard (and I have been following the blog at Eruptions.com) we are getting a lot of stuff into the 30-40 km range. This puts SO2 in the atmosphere and effects the enviroment, contrary to what we are being told be the intelligentsia who are using the 50 tp 60 km figure they are using from around the tropics. I also came across a web page http://www.yr.no/verkart/1.7103434 that uses a fallout program to track what the ash is doing.

  48. @ CC “Isn’t Yellowstone one giant volcano waiting to blow.”
    Yes and no. You hear a lot about the “Yellowstone supervolcano.” But my impression (and perhaps any of the actual geologists that visit the board can confirm) is that Yellowstone has to go through a period of extruding lava or ash from the magma source until some critical point is reached where the caldera collapses in on itself creating the super-eruption.

  49. If this volcano isn’t a problem because it isn’t ejecting stuff into the stratosphere, then why is my car such a problem. The exhaust pipe actually points down a bit toward to ground. So it can’t eject anything anywhere near the stratosphere.

  50. One of my little treasures is an 1836 British hand-coloured map entitled ‘Islands in the Atlantic’, published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. They took their science seriously, those days.
    In the segment devoted to the Azores, there is an intriguing notation for a location just off the west tip of Santo Miguel:

    Sabrina, volcanic island which in 1811 rose from the Sea in 180 ft depth to 300 feet above water, and in 4 months again disappeared.

    A known unknown, all this vulcanism, methinks.

  51. Drew Latta says:
    May 11, 2010 at 10:42 am
    @ CC “Isn’t Yellowstone one giant volcano waiting to blow.”
    Yes and no. You hear a lot about the “Yellowstone supervolcano.” But my impression (and perhaps any of the actual geologists that visit the board can confirm) is that Yellowstone has to go through a period of extruding lava or ash from the magma source until some critical point is reached where the caldera collapses in on itself creating the super-eruption.
    ______________________________________________________________
    It is nice to hear that. It means we in the USA would have plenty of warning. Only having earthquake activity as a warning made me a bit twitchy given the activity of late.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/science/01yellowstone.html
    “In the last two weeks, more than 100 mostly tiny earthquakes a day, on average, have rattled a remote area of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, putting scientists who monitor the park’s strange and volatile geology on alert.
    Researchers say that for now, the earthquake cluster, or swarm — the second-largest ever recorded in the park — is more a cause for curiosity than alarm…. there had been 1,608 quakes since Jan. 17.”

  52. I agree Eyjafjallajökull should not affect the global climate significantly, but me thinks much of the NH is in for a wet summer, lousy wet in places.
    Some comments on Yellowstone…
    http://scienceblogs.com/eruptions/2010/04/reawakening_redoubt.php
    LuRose, I definitely confirm what Gordys said before. The 2012 movie has great animations but no whatsoever scientific value. It’s a sci-fi movie. Plus, we’re in 2010 not in 2012 ;-D
    But seriously. Yellowstone is a volcano that could potentially generate a very large explosive eruption, like it has done in its past. Three of its eruptions in the past little more than 2 million years have been cataclysmic and their repetition today would severely affect a good portion of the U.S. and also have global (economic and possibly climatic) repercussions. The last such enormous eruption – unfortunately often called “supereruption”, which is not a very adequate term – occurred about 650,000 years ago.
    But Yellowstone has had hundreds of eruptions that nobody talks about because they’ve been much smaller, and many have occurred since the last great cataclysm, most recently 70,000 years ago. Chances that the next eruption of Yellowstone will be such a modest-sized event are about a thousand times greater than the next eruption will be another gigantic one. And chances that any one of us will see a new eruption in Yellowstone are millions of times inferior to the probability of getting killed in a car crash.
    We should then also remember that Yellowstone is only one of a vast number of potentially active huge volcanic systems on this planet. It is the most famous and it lies in the heart of the U.S. which makes it more of a myth than any one of its companion volcanoes. But some of those other volcanoes are far more dangerous in my opinion because (a) they have erupted historically, sometimes repeatedly, and therefore seem to receive higher rates of magma supply than Yellowstone; (b) they are much more densely populated than Yellowstone and thus they will be a threat for millions of human lives even if they produce only relatively small eruptions. One of these lies in the country where I live, Italy; it’s called Campi Flegrei, it has one-third of the city of Naples lying WITHIN its caldera, and it has produced two very massive explosive eruptions in the past 40,000 years.
    So it’s all a question of perspective, and if we want to understand how dangerous and how active Yellowstone really is, we must also understand what other volcanoes of the same type are there. This is not necessarily encouraging, but I would bet my whole stock of fine Etna red wines that we’ll see many other volcanoes, even of those larger ones, erupt before something serious happens at Yellowstone.
    Posted by: Boris Behncke | April 6, 2010 1:10 PM
    16 To underscore Boris’ sensible explanation, please see Smithsonian’s Global Volcano Program (GVP) Yellowstone volcano summary page
    http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=1205-01-
    There have been no magmetic Yellowstone eruptions since the late Pleistocene. Subsequent eruptions in the early Holocene have been hydrothermal. It is also the reason why the USGS has said repeatedly that these swarms are hydrothermal in nature and that there is little reason to fear a cataclysmic magmetic eruption. Yellowstone has the distinction of being one the worlds largest hydrothermal geyser systems.
    Posted by: Passerby | April 6, 2010 1:29 PM

  53. FWIW, this map of Iceland shows only greater than 2.5 magnitude quakes, so it’s an easy “spot” if a big one has happened in the last week. As I type, it is devoid of quakes:
    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Maps/10/340_65.php
    Per Yellowstone: If it goes in a super eruption, we lose basically everything to Chicago, the globe gets very dark and very cold, and if we’re lucky, some civilization will survive somewhere in the southern hemisphere with lots of ocean to fish an not much population to support (say, Australia or New Zealand) but don’t count on it…
    Also note that there have been fairly consistent quakes around Long Valley Caldera near Mammoth Mountain California – another “supervolcano” site, though far less frequently discussed. Odds are it will be smaller than a Yellowstone event, and I might even survive the first week… (Winds taking most of the ash toward Phoenix or Denver and little making it “up wind” to me…)
    It’s that ‘wad’ of activity just below the “kink” in the California / Nevada border:
    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqscanv/
    About even in latitude with the S.F. Bay Area…

  54. Thank you Mr. Smith. And (from Denver) on that cheerful note…
    Test results now in on “safe” ash concentrations for flight.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18802-engine-stripdowns-establish-safe-volcanic-ash-levels.html
    http://blog.taragana.com/science/2010/04/22/scientists-establish-how-much-volcanic-ash-jet-engine-can-safely-suck-in-11314/
    But despite the rather confident claims for knowing levels, you have to wonder. Did they fly the planes to the point of “flame-out”? What will be the more insidious, long-term effects from multiple flights?
    The Libyan airbus that went down in North Africa this week (leaving a sole survivor) was a relatively new airliner. The officials are denying that it flew through the dust clouds had any effect, and there were some reports of “breakup” during landing, but Met Office satellite maps show that clouds of dust were on their way across Northern Africa from the east, that had already reached Spain and Tunisia, and concentrations had progressed to the east and were at the time of the crash, visible in Turkey. European pilots must be very nervous about these “clearances” to fly – and particularly anxious about the accruacy of Met satellite reports.

  55. paulc says:
    May 10, 2010 at 5:57 pm
    Sulfur dioxide turns into tiny droplets of sulfuric acid.
    But SO2 would only form sulfurous acid. Does the SO2 pick up the extra oxygen at high altitude? Or what is the mechanism?

    Gas phase oxidation by OH also liquid phase oxidation in water droplets (traces of NH3 catalyse the reaction).

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