Iceland’s Volcanic Activity Can Have Global Consequences

Posted: March 23, 2010 in natural disasters
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From PopFi online (Interesting and Offbeat Updates Daily)
Post 3/23/2010 8:30 am by Ron Hogan

With the recent eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, climatologists and geologists are getting worried. You see, whenever Eyjafjallajokull erupts (it had been dormant for 500 years), fellow volcano Katla follows. Katla, located under a giant sheet of ice called the Myrdalsjokull icecap, would cause problems on a global scale should it erupt. Iceland’s volcanoes have serious consequences when they blow, thanks to Iceland’s position on the Jet Stream, which controls global weather patterns. So how bad might it get?

When the Laki volcano erupted in 1783, it caused a cloud of poison gas to drift to Britain, where hundreds died. The smog and ash caused famines in Western Europe. Crop production plunged. The winter of 1784 was one of the coldest in history, with the Mississippi River freezing as far south as New Orleans. The last time there was a major eruption in Iceland, flooding followed within minutes of the hot lava hitting the glaciers, with house-sized boulders tumbling down mountains.

Pompeii was nothing compared to what might happen when Iceland’s volcanoes wake from their long slumber. The whole world is going to know when that happens, no question about it. It’s only a matter of time.

Fears of more Iceland volcano eruptions
Brisbane Times online March 23, 2010 – 4:54AM

Blasts of lava and ash have shot out of a volcano in southern Iceland and small tremors have rocked the ground, a surge in activity that has raised fears of a larger explosion at the nearby Katla volcano. Scientists say history has proven when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupts, Katla follows – the only question is how soon. And Katla, under the massive Myrdalsjokull icecap, threatens disastrous flooding and explosive blasts.

Saturday’s eruption at Eyjafjallajokull – dormant for nearly 200 years – forced at least 500 people to evacuate. Most have returned home, but authorities were waiting for scientific assessments to determine if they should stay. Residents of 14 farms nearest the site had to stay away. Several small tremors were felt early on Monday, followed by spurts of lava and steam rocketing into the air.

Iceland sits on a large volcanic hot spot in the Atlantic’s mid-oceanic ridge. Eruptions, common throughout Iceland’s history, are often triggered by seismic activity when the Earth’s plates move and magma pushes its way to the surface.

Iceland’s Laki volcano erupted in the mid-1780s, freeing gases that turned into smog. The smog floated across the Jet Stream, lowering temperatures and changing weather patterns. Many died from gas poisoning in the British Isles. Crop production fell in western Europe. Famine spread. Some even linked the eruption, which helped fuel famine, to the French Revolution.

“A general expectation is that because of the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, the fissure would widen and in that sense, there’s a greater risk of extending into or underneath the glaciers and prompting an eruption at Katla,” said Andy Russell with Newcastle University’s Earth Surface Processes Research Group, who went with a team to Iceland before the eruption. “From records, we know that every time Eyjafjallajokull erupts, Katla has also erupted.”

Russell said past Katla eruptions have caused floods the size of the Amazon and sent boulders as big as houses tumbling down valleys and roads. The last major eruption took place in 1918. Floods followed in as little as an hour. Those eruptions have posed risks to residents nearby, but most of Iceland’s 320,000 people live in the capital, Reykjavik, the western part of the island.

The last time there was an eruption near the 160sq km Eyjafjallajokull glacier was in 1821, a “lazy” eruption that continued two years.

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