Label: Volcanoes

April 19, 2010

Our Planet Earth is putting on quite a show in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day! For those interested in seeing photographs, the Boston ran a feature this weekend with twenty striking images of the volcano, including shots of people on cross country skis taking photographs at the edge of the hot lava. Talk about a study in contrasts!

 The volcano continues to erupt in Iceland,  and air travel is still disrupted in northern Europe and Great Britain. If you look at this satellite image, you can see why:



Photo: AP Photo/NEODAAS/University of Dundee


The land mass at the top/left of the photo is Iceland. The two land masses at the bottom/center of the photo are Ireland and Britain. You can see why no planes are flying out of England - the country is enveloped in volcanic ash.

This volcano has not been studied extensively, so scientists do not know how long the eruptions might continue. From what has been observed so far, there will not be a significant impact on Europe’s weather. It takes a very big volcanic event to impact weather across a continent, or across the globe. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Phillippines on June 15,  1991, scientists   estimated that 20-million tons of sulfur dioxide and ash particles   blasted more than 12 miles high into the atmosphere. The eruption caused widespread destruction and loss of human life. And, the gases and solids injected into the stratosphere enveloped our globe for three weeks.That volcano caused an average 10% drop in temperatures,  affecting the world’s weather that year.

The eruption of   the Tambora volcano in 1815 (in what is now Indonesia) was one of the biggest weather influencers ever, triggering the famous Year   without a Summer in 1816. 

Scientists do not agree on whether even a huge volcanic eruption (much bigger than the one we’re experiencing this week) could ever have a long-term impact on climate.

Remember, weather is different from climate. When you talk about weather, you are talking about       what is happening in the atmosphere that day in a particular location. Weather tells...

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Posted by: Seymour Simon

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April 15, 2010

In Iceland today, hundreds of people have been evacuated as floodwaters rise from the eruption of the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier. This is the second time it has erupted in less than a month. As water gushed down the mountainside, rivers had risen up to 10 feet by Wednesday night.

The volcano’s smoke and ash poses a threat to aircraft because it can affect visibility,  and microscopic debris can get sucked into airplane engines and can cause them to shut down. Airports are closed across Western Europe,  including London’s Heathrow, where up to 180,000 people fly in a typical day.

Photo: Ingolfur Juliusson / Reuters
Smoke billows from a volcano in Eyjafjallajokull April 14, 2010

Iceland is a volcanic island, so this type of event is not unexpected. I included some spectacular photographs of explosions of Icelandic volcanoes in my Collins/Smithsonian book, VOLCANOES.

In 1963,  an area of the Atlantic Ocean near Iceland began to boil and churn. An undersea volcano was exploding and a new island was being formed. The island was named Surtsey, after the ancient Norse god of fire.

             Simon, Seymour. VOLCANOES. New York: Collins/Smithsonian, 1988.  Page 15
Photo: Solarfilma