Among the problems: dangerous gases in air flight corridors. But crop failures strike me as a bigger concern.
WASHINGTON—A modern recurrence of an extraordinary type of volcanic eruption in Iceland could inject large quantities of hazardous gases into North Atlantic and European flight corridors, potentially for months at a time, a new study suggests. Using computer simulations, researchers are investigating the likely atmospheric effects if a “flood lava” eruption took place in Iceland today. Flood lava eruptions, which stand out for the sheer amounts of lava and sulfurous gases they release and the way their lava sprays from cracks like fiery fountains, have occurred in Iceland four times in roughly the past thousand years, records indicate, the most recent being the deadly and remarkable eruption of Iceland’s volcano Laki in 1783-84.
In my view the human race has been lucky in terms of the severity of geological phenomena since the late 19th century. During the 19th century many more severe natural events occurred than was the case in the 20th. We might be overdo. Since Iceland volcanic eruptions on a similar scale to Laki in 1783-1784 have happened about 4 times in the last thousand years it should not surprise us if a similar eruption occurs in the 21st century.
When Laki sprang to life on June 8, 1783, it generated a sulfuric acid haze that dispersed over Iceland, France, England, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, and other countries. It killed a fifth of Iceland’s population and three-quarters of the island’s livestock. It also destroyed crops, withered vegetation, and sowed human disease and death in several Northern European nations. During the eight months that Laki erupted, the volcano blasted 122 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere – seven times more than did the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines and approximately 50 to 100 times more per day than Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano released in 2010.
Well that does not sound like fun.
Today such an eruption would surely cause a couple of years of global cooling (just as the Mt Pinatubo eruption of 1991 cooled the lower atmosphere). The researchers in the latest report focus on aviation impacts. The air in some air lanes would become unhealthy for humans.
In the new simulations – focusing again on the first month of the eruption -- average daily concentrations of the droplets, in up to 10 percent of the air space, would exceed 10 times London’s average daily concentration of the corrosive pollutant, the researchers found.
Earth has so many volcanoes waiting to erupt. The next doozy might be a repeat of big eruptions in Nicaragua.
SELFOSS, ICELAND—Giant volcanic eruptions in Nicaragua over the past 70,000 years could have injected enough gases into the atmosphere to temporarily thin the ozone layer, according to new research. And, if it happened today, a similar explosive eruption could do the same, releasing more than twice the amount of ozone-depleting halogen gases currently in stratosphere due to man-made emissions.
So many ways to get whacked by our planet, sun, and asteroids.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2012 June 16 04:53 PM Dangers Natural Geological|