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This Blog is designed to be a Diary of Events illustrating Global Climate Change, and where it will lead.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

This is Just the Beginning

For you, Lon, you have worried about this sort of thing for some time. Well, you were concerned about earthquakes, but I think there's a close relationship with Volcanoes...

From Times Online:

Jack Grimston and Chris Haslam

The clash between molten rock and ice on the surface of the Iceland volcano has produced ash so fine that radar and other aircraft instruments are unable to detect it. The near-invisibility of the ash swirling in vast clouds over Britain and Europe has magnified the confusion and trepidation brought about by the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull.

Now the uncertainty is set to increase still further, with scientists warning that, based on the volcano’s historic behaviour, the eruption could be “just the beginning”. The mountain may continue to blow out ash sporadically for a year or more.

Even more worryingly, Katla, the neighbouring volcano, is groaning from the eruption under pressure equivalent to 3,000 mini-earthquakes a day of up to 3.1 on the Richter scale. Katla is some five times bigger than Eyjafjallajokull and would erupt in a similar way — but spewing out far bigger plumes of ash.

This does not mean British airspace will be closed for a year, but it could herald months of repeated bouts of disruption, depending largely on the weather.

The ash is formed by the sudden contact between molten rock and ice. As the lava is pushed up through the vent of Eyjafjallajokull at 700-1,100C, it shoots through the glacier of the same name. A glass-like rind forms but shatters under pressure from below. Jets of steam and gas then carry it into the atmosphere in tiny flakes less than 1mm across.

Jet engines suck in so much air that it carries with it enough ash to wreck the mechanism. Even though the ash becomes invisible as it disperses, planes have to be grounded as has happened regularly during eruptions in Alaska, northern Japan and Sicily.

Ash has been spewing out since March 20, when a 500-yard gash opened on the shoulder of the volcano.

“There are no signs yet of the eruption ending, even temporarily.”

Hooper warned that the eruption may be only a taste of the future if climate change causes ice sheets to melt further. As the last ice age ended, volcanic activity in Iceland increased 30-fold because of reduced pressure on the earth’s mantle.

“Since the 19th century the ice caps in Iceland have been shrinking yet further,” said Hooper. “This will lead to additional magma generation, so we should expect more frequent voluminous eruptions in the future.”

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