The eruption of the Icelandic volcano that began last Wednesday, April 14 has continued, with a giant plume of ash that prompted a massive shut down of air travel as it spread across Europe, leaving millions of passengers stranded and uncertainty as to when flights would resume.
Bulgarian Citizen: We were stuck for 3 days at London...Siim Kallas – European Commissioner for Transport: This is unprecedented; such a long time, such a big airspace totally closed. This is of course something that cannot be very easily solved immediately.
In Iceland, the heat of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano unleashed flooding due to increased glacial melt, forcing hundreds of evacuations.
Iceland’s health officials have also advised air masks for nearby residents and that companion animals be brought indoors to protect their respiratory systems. A further concern is that the ash could contaminate drinking water.
Further volcanic activity on Monday, April 19 dashed hopes of resumed air travel in some parts of Europe, as officials stated that the new ash cloud was headed toward the United Kingdom.
The UK’s National Air Traffic Service said that the worsening situation made flights for places like Northern Ireland uncertain. In fact, as the initial volcanic ash cloud reached the eastern Canadian province of Quebec on Monday morning, Transport Canada grounded flights for some airports in Newfoundland and Labrador province.
With another volcanic plume expected to bring even more concentrated ash, further flight restrictions may be imposed for safety.
The International Air Transport Association estimates conservatively that airport closures are costing affected airlines over US$200 million per day in lost revenues, plus other costs such as care for stranded passengers or aircraft, while the German Chamber of Commerce calculated that the nation was losing US$1.3 billion daily.
Scientists monitoring the region state that Eyjafjallajökull’s initial eruption created more ash than a non-glacier volcano because the magma was pushing up through ice that was 200 meters thick.
With the glacier nearly gone now, plumes have diminished. However, the researchers caution that this recent activity could set off other volcanoes such as the massive Katla, whose glacier is more than twice the thickness of Eyjafjallajökull. Katla’s last eruption nearly a century ago caused major flooding and lasted for a year.
Also, previous experience in Iceland and other countries such as Mexico warn of disasters such as the heat of eruptions causing the volcano’s ice cap or those of nearby glaciers to melt, resulting in potentially fatal mudslides.
According to researchers Dr. Freysteinn Sigmundsson of the University of Iceland and Dr. Carolina Pagli of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, global warming can cause ice-capped volcanoes like Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull to more easily erupt due to the ice loss causing a release of pressure on the hot rocks beneath the Earth’s surface.
The rocks then expand and liquefy into the molten substance known as magma. With global warming over the past century causing the formation of an estimated 1.4 cubic kilometers of new magma, Dr. Sigmundsson stated, “Eventually there will be either somewhat larger … or more frequent eruptions in Iceland.”
Moreover, papers just published by the UK’s Royal Society indicate that global warming effects like melting ice, more intense storms and rising sea levels are causing other events such as rockfalls and landslides.
In fact, leading British volcanologist Dr. Bill McGuire stated that even small changes in atmospheric temperature or pressure can set off both volcanic and earthquake activity from within the planet’s crust.
Our sincere thanks, Drs. Sigmundsson, Pagli and McGuire, as well as all scientists and public officials for your factual insights and efforts to help people cope with these troubling events.
May humans everywhere move quickly to adopt sustainable lifestyles that renew the stability of our Earthly home. In a May 2009 public videoconference in South Korea, Supreme Master Ching Hai urged once more for solutions that would lessen both climate change and such distressing occurrences on the planet.