Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pardon my ash!

If you were planning a flight to Europe in the near future, it's looking more and more like you'll need to make alternative plans. How do you feel about a boat trip?

The eruption of the unpronounceable volcano in Iceland is playing havoc with the world's airline schedules, and travelers - or would-be travelers - stuck in some place they don't want to be in Western Europe are getting more and more frustrated. But what can be done? Once again, we are at the mercy of a Nature who always bats last and always bats a thousand.

The really scary part of this whole scenario as I read the reports in the news is that this is a very minor volcano and a relatively minor eruption. What scientists - and everyone else - now fear is that this may trigger an eruption by the much larger and more dangerous Icelandic volcano Katla. This could be bad news for more than the airlines. It could have deleterious effects on the world's climate and the ability of the world's farmers to raise food. Such disastrous consequences have happened many times in the earth's past. (Does the name Krakatoa ring a bell?) So this is not just a matter of scientists being worrywarts.

There is even a theory that has seen more discussion in light of current events that the melting of the ice caps, which is a result of global warming, could trigger more volcanic activity. This could be especially devasting in Iceland which is a hotbed - literally! - of volcanic activity at all times.

Overall, I'd say this whole incident is a nice little reminder that, in the end, we are dependent upon the natural processes of our home planet. And a very large component of those processes is volcanism.

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