We’ve all heard about the Iceland volcano Eyjafjallajökull pouring volcanic ash into the atmosphere. Ash that makes air travel dangerous, along with many other issues…
Volcanic ash is composed of tiny bits of glass and pulverized rock. The glass particles come from melted sand. The splintered rock-powder forms when the solid rock around the volcano’s vent shatters with the force of eruption. These minute particles act like almost-invisible knife blades, slicing through the air in one or more stifling clouds.
Now add in the heat from Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption, dissolving the frozen glacier covering it… and you have a major geological event taking place.
But there’s more!
Eyjafjallajökull is also dumping about 3,000 tons of sulfur dioxide into the air every day. When mixed with atmospheric water vapor, the sun’s warming rays are reflected away from Earth.
Who knows what the long-range effects will be?
Back in 1816, the Mount Tambora volcano erupted. This was a much bigger eruption; it deflected so much of the sun’s warmth that it became known as “the year with no summer”. Lakes and rivers froze as far south as Pennsylvania during July and August. But the current Icelandic eruption is nowhere near the size of Mount Tambora.
Experts worry that the Eyjafjallajökull eruption might set off a bigger volcano, nearby Mount Katla: then the world would experience a more serious impact. Iceland is in the area of the jet stream, so volcanic dust and debris is spreading across the Northern Hemisphere – starting with Western Europe.
So far, the immediate effect is damage to engines, spectacular sunsets, possibly cooler temperatures for the next few months. Where enough ash falls from the sky, it could upset local ecosystems, collapse roofs… then, years later, boost ground soil fertility.
Oh – and with the variety of tiny ash particles floating in the atmosphere, the moon will be likely take on a reddish hue for some time: Blood Moon, as it’s called.
Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption seems (so far) to be small enough that experts anticipate it will only affect portions of the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere.
But that’s the best-case scenario…