Volcano Warning for Iceland

There is a volcano in Iceland that hasn't erupted in almost two centuries. But this April, Volcano E is at it again in the North Atlantic. Tony blogs what that may mean for us down the road a few weeks.

Iceland Volcano Alters Weather

It has now been a week since Volcano E. ( Eyjfjallajokull) blew its lid in Iceland and this much we know. Weather conditions in much of Western Europe including Scandanavia and the United Kingdom have been and will continue to be affected.

The main way volcanoes “affect" the weather is by reducing visibility. The powerful thrust of ash from volcanoes is known to reach up into the stratosphere, at times 60,000 feet high. This produces a mass of thick choking dust capable of interfering with aviation.

In fact air travel across much of Europe continues to be hindered this week and with new explosions possible, the window for flights to leave airports like London’s Heathrow and Paris’ Charles De Gaulle will be scattershot at best.

In the case of Volcano E., I am reading the peak height reached this past weekend was 35,000 feet. That ash is thick enough to produce enormous clouds of dust which then migrate with the winds in the upper atmosphere.

At ground level, the fallout of ash in southern Iceland has resembled the dust clouds that blow around in a desert. I am waiting to hear reports in England, Scotland and France of a cruddy fallout of dirty ash once a rainy day moves in.

Dr. Dewey Sanderson, the chair of the Marshall geology department, says Volcano E.'s big brother (Volcano Katla) some 10 miles away from E. may be a bigger issue. "If Katla's magma makes it up into the snow and ice in the crater, the effects could be devasating", Dewey said.

I am enclosing a website that allows you to watch the “plume” of ash as it migrates away from the volcano to various destinations (thousands of miles away). From its source in Iceland, many European countries are but a few thousand kilometers away (one thousand miles or less).

Questions on how this plume of ash will affect the weather in the Northern Hemisphere are worth exploring. My personal theory focuses on a similar explosion from Mt. Pinatuba in the Phillipines in June 1991. That year, volcanic ash crossed the tropical Pacific and became entrained into the heavens in the USA. By September, that ash arrived overhead here in Appalachia.

That veil of volcanic dust interacted with the late summer sun to produce what is best described as a “great balls of fire” orangey sunset at Marshall Stadium as the Herd opened its new digs to the world and the University of New Hampshire on September 7th.

Renown photographer and Huntington's own John Montanez reflected on the shot that has made that night so famous in his art gallery. "We knew we would take the shot at sunset. But we didn't know we would have such a stunning background. To this day, 20 years later, when people call for a portrait for their own they ask 'do you have the sunset shot'?"

Indeed that September, the sunrises and sets were spectacular!

So my prediction, in the next month as some of that ash gets transported into North America, an enhancement in sunrises and sunsets will inspire photographers in America, perhaps even in your backyard.

Now there is a precedent that a really big and long lasting volcanic eruption can spew enough ash into the high atmosphere to block the sun’s incoming rays. Under those circumstances (1815, Mount Tambora, Indonesia), the climate can turn unusually cold. In fact, 1816 is known as the “year without summer” in Northern Europe and the Northeast USA with frosts and even snows occurring close by to our Ohio Valley all summer long.

I will hold off calling for a cold summer based on Vocano E.’s shenanigans, at least for now.

Here’s the link to the European Meteorological Centre’s display of the initial plume of ash coming from Volcano E. Click to the home page for all sorts of other neat data and pictures of this once in 100 year event.

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2010/volcano/sat_animation/

And here's a site that has a sequence of awesome pictures of the volcano.

http://www.neatorama.com/2010/04/19/amazing-pictures-of-the-icelandic-volcano-eruption/

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