About to blow

29th August, 2014

If you are a regular aviation traveller, many of you will remember the spring of 2010 - and not for good reasons. The eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland resulted in a week of chaos across Northern Europe as more than 100,000 flights were cancelled. Now experts at the Icelandic Met Office have fears of a similar event, as seismic activity around the Bardarbunga volcano has intensified over recent weeks.

This activity has resulted in the country raising its volcano warning level from orange to red - the highest point on its scale. The move has increased fears that a similar level of travel disruption could follow any resulting eruption, with Met Office scientist Kristin Jonsdottir quoted as saying “There has been intense earthquake activity at the volcano. We cannot exclude that this could be a big eruption.”

There are also fears that a very big eruption could result in Britain experiencing an extremely cold winter as the ash thrown into the atmosphere reflects the sun's light away from the Earth - a phenomenon known as the ‘haze effect’. Throughout history several volcanic eruptions have resulted in knock on effects to the weather in surrounding areas, some of which have lasted for several years.

Previous Eruptions:

  • 1783: An eruption from the Laki volcano in Iceland led to record low temperatures in the eastern regions of the United States.
  • 1815: The eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia resulted in an unusually cold spring and summer the following year.
  • 1883: Following the eruption of Krakatau in Indonesia, the world saw colder than average temperatures for several months.
  • 1980: Global temperatures fell by 0.1C following the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Skamania County, Washington, United States.
  • 1982: A global temperature drop five times the effect of St. Helens was the result of sulphurous gasses being released following an eruption from the El Chichon volcano in Mexico.

We should stress that it would take a very big explosion to have a significant impact upon our weather patterns, though it is something we are all monitoring very closely.

This video gives an insight into how the UK Met Office tracks and predicts the impact of volcanic ash:

Bardarbunga Volcano

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