View Full Version : the volcano marches on.

05-19-2010, 01:28 PM
Interesting in the 1800s the one belched for close to two years.

An ash belcher does not have the higher CO2 output of an exploder like Katka (sp) but it is interesting to note :

Eyjafjallajökull Daily CO2 Output Utterly Dwarfed by European Aviation Industry
Mt. Eyjafjallajökull is wreaking havoc on European travel right now, but what about the continent's environment? That's a lot of CO2 in the air, after all, but you'd be surprised to learn the airplanes it's grounded are much, much worse.

As you can see in the big, colorful graph, the European aviation industry's daily CO2 output completely dominates poor Eyjafjallajökull with a daily tally of 344,109 tons of CO2 per day. Compared to the volcano's 15,000 tons, that's quite the difference.

That said, it would be interesting to see what the ground travel contribution has been in the wake of the eruption. I know of a handful of people who took trains and buses from London to Milan, for example, to escape the ash zone and find a flight at another airport.

In any event, while travelers might malign the volcano for grounding them for days on end, the earth is apparently having a good laugh. Or maybe a belch or some flatulence—whatever human bodily function you happen to personify a volcano with is fine. [Information is Beautiful]

Send an email to Jack Loftus, the author of this post, at jloftus@gizmodo.com.

05-19-2010, 01:32 PM
and the current status :

However, even these tidings had to take a backseat when a new volcano erupted yesterday. The new eruption is about ten times more powerful than the "tourist eruption," and is located under a glacier. The glacier melted, causing glacier runs (jökulhlaup) that have twice flooded the south of Iceland. A vast cloud of ash rose 30,000 feet into the air, endangering aircraft motors over the north Atlantic.

Perhaps it is part of our national character to ignore potential dangers until it's too late. Volcanos created Iceland, and have, at times, done their best to destroy its human interlopers.

This photograph, which has been making rounds in Icelandic cyberspacem, was taken by Ólafur Eggertsson, from the farm Þorvaldseyri.

The 934 AD lava flow from the Eldgjá fissure system unleashed the largest flood of basalt on the planet in historic times. The Laki eruption in 1783 had the largest outflow of lava since then. It emitted fluoride that poisoned half of Iceland's livestock, resulting in a famine that killed approximately a quarter of Iceland's population, and thrust vast quantities of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, directly causing many deaths in Western Europe, and contributing to several years of extreme weather in Europe. It is often credited as an indirect cause of the French Revolution.

Katla, which is part of the same volcanic system as Eldgjá and the current eruptions, lies under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. It has violently erupted on many occasions, causing sudden floods of unthinkable violence (that water flow during the two-day jökulhlaup associated with the most recent subglacial eruption at Katla was 200,000 cubic meters of water per second; the Amazon's flow is 10,000 cubic meters per second) that have wiped out roads and farms, taking people with them, and leaving the survivors on mountaintops that became islands for days at a time. After the 1311 eruption, a farmer and his son allegedly survived by clinging to an iceberg that later drifted back to shore. Although it has historically erupted every 40-80 years, its last major eruption was in 1918, so it is considered overdue, and there is speculation that the current activity is a precursor of a new Katla explosion. Each of the previous three Eyjafjallajökull eruptions since Iceland's settlement (920, 1612, and 1821-23) has been followed by a major Katla eruption.

Maybe Katla will explode, and maybe it won't. Maybe the new volcano will continue to grow, like Parícutin, until it towers over the landscape, but maybe it will just fizzle out over the next few months. There are simply some events over which we have no control.

By all accounts, the Icelandic public safety officials have taken all the steps they can to ensure that observers don't endanger themselves or others. Although some farms and roads have been washed away, there have been no human or animal fatalities because of the volcanoes.

Nevertheless, this may be a black swan--a rare, but extremely significant, event. We need to feel that we understand and control our environment. We have spent enormous sums of money, and employed state-of-the-art technology to study the tectonic plates, to locate and measure the magma chamber, and to plot every tiny movement of the crust. Icelanders are justifiably proud of the fact that most of our houses are warmed with geothermal energy. We believe that we have tamed the Earth's heat and made it our servant.

Unfortunately, of course, we can no more completely tame the Earth's molten core than we can completely tame a killer whale. We have the comforting illusion of control, but the uncontrolable beast beneath will ultimately emerge and destroy its putative master. As J.R.R. Tolkien noted, "It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."

Much energy (and money) has rightfully been expended studying the effects of greenhouse gases on the global climate, and more will be spent to deal with the consequent problems we will face, even though this phenomenon is unprecedented.

It is a fact, however, that volcanic ejecta has radically changed our environment in the past. The Laki and Asama eruptions of 1783 were followed by an unusually cold year. The Tambora eruption in 1815 was followed in 1816 by a "year without a summer." A marked decrease in solar radiation in 1884-85 followed the Krakatoa eruption. Today's flight delays are just a whiff of the possible disruption Katla could cause. The costs of a major eruption today would be catastrophic.

We like our cataclysms to be gradual -- like global warming, or distant -- like the Haiti earthquake or the south Asian tsumani. If they're gradual, we commission studies, present papers, assemble conferences, sign treaties, award Nobel prizes, and kick the can down the road to the next generation. If they're distant, we hold fundraisers, sing songs, hold prayer services, participate in photo ops, and do just enough to feel good about ourselves before allowing the affected area slowly slip from our consciousness into oblivion.

A sudden global disaster--such as an asteroid strike, the eruption of the Yellowstone volcano, or a nuclear war--could destroy our civilization. We've become more and more dependent on a house of cards, and a disruption of that magnitude would collapse our institutions.

Our man-made crises fill our everyday lives, but we ignore natural phenomena at our peril. We lose sight of how detached from our environment we've become, how thin the veneer of civilization really is, and how fragile our bodies and our institutions really are.

Follow Iris Erlingsdottir on Twitter: www.twitter.com/elluskott