Icelandic volcanoes can be unpredictable and dangerous

April 16, 2010, Texas A&M University

If history is any indication, the erupting volcano in Iceland and its immense ash plume could intensify, says a Texas A&M University researcher who has explored Icelandic volcanoes for the past 25 years.

Jay Miller, a research scientist in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program who has made numerous trips to the region and studied there under a Fulbright grant, says the produced from Icelandic volcanoes can be a real killer, which is why hundreds of flights from Europe have been cancelled for fear of engine trouble.

"What happens is that the magma from the is around 1,200 degrees and it hits the water there, which is near freezing," he explains. "What is produced is a fine ash that actually has small pieces of glass in it, and it can very easily clog up a jet engine. If you were to inhale that ash, it would literally tear up your lungs."

Miller says most volcanoes in Iceland erupt only about every five years on average and are relatively mild, but history is repeating itself. Extremely large eruptions occurred there in 934 A.D. and again in 1783 that covered Europe with ash much like today.

"Ben Franklin was ambassador to France in 1783 and he personally witnessed the large ash clouds over Europe, and he later wrote that it was a year in which there was no summer," Miller adds. "The big question now is, what happens next? It's very possible this eruption could last for quite some time, but no one knows for sure. Volcanoes in that part of the world are very hard to predict."

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1 / 5 (2) Apr 16, 2010
Could the eruption disrupt global smarming?
1 / 5 (3) Apr 16, 2010
There certain dependency: on a slow news day the number of global warming articles mushroom.
1.3 / 5 (3) Apr 18, 2010
984 and 1783...Ah, Lakagigar. Thank goodness that that ISN'T the volcano that's erupting; the next few years, at least, would be very hard if that were the case.

...Of course, I don't know if there's any reason that this volcano shouldn't decide to go all flood-basalt on us, either; I'm not too familiar with what this volcano's done in the past, and whether that has anything to do with what it might do in the future. Quite apart from the succession of devastating years without summers that'd follow if it kept on kerblooeying for the next few years, though, this could be quite worrisome in the long term, as well. The ensuing coldness, regardless of the easily-explicable cause, would make the threat of a warming world appear laughable to more than a few individuals in power, and...Bleck. I'd imagine that attempts to regulate CO2 on a large scale would falter, allowing more to end up in the atmosphere than would have otherwise have occurred. Human memory is too short.
3.3 / 5 (3) Apr 18, 2010
...And splendid. I just made an effort to amend my somewhat spotty knowledge,and found out that although this volcano has a (comparatively) dinky lava chamber, its eruptions are associated with the eruption of Katla, a volcano that is, in turn, part of the same volcanic system responsible for the 934 and 1783 eruptions. Hope for the best, I guess. Not all of that system's eruptions have been on the scale of the Laki and Eldgjá eruptions, after all.

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