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Weather Blog: Iceland Volcanoes Could Impact Climate

by Mario Gomez

khou.com

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 10:57 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 29 at 11:07 PM

All flights into London's two major airports have been canceled for Monday. This is just one more in a series of days that ash from the Eyjafjallajokul Volcano has shut down airline travel. Now Vulcanologist are saying that yet another volcano is showing signs of life in Iceland, since the Glacier above it seems to be melting and seismic activity has begun near the base of the volcano. Due to the recent activity in the area experts are requesting better monitoring equipment. Many European nations now fear there could be long term climate implications if these volcanoes erupt with more frequency for the next few years.

One of Houston's few vulcanologist's Dr. Jonathan Snow has been studying the volcano's at the top of the earth since he was a graduate student. Dr Snow has pulled some of the oldest rocks on earth from the sea floor near Iceland. He describes Iceland as a hot spot where two tectonic plates meet and are creating a new sea floor. The new sea floor is outlined in red above. Iceland is indeed a land of fire and ice with all the volcano's having glaciers on top. As the volcano's erupt the surrounding communities have to deal with major flooding as the glacier melts from below.

Dr Snow said that Eyjafjallajokull volcano as seen above has been giving seismic signals since March that it was going to become active after almost 200 years of dormancy. Currently there are 18 active volcanoes around the world and a total of 39 since the beginning of the year. Most of the ash and sulfur gas that came from the Icelandic volcano reached 10 - 15 thousand feet into the atmosphere. Compared to major eruptions like Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines and El Chicon, Mexico this was a minor eruption explained Snow. Mt. Pinatubo and El Chicon where hundreds of times greater in volume of ash and gas compared to Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland. The ash cloud reached 25 - 30 thousand feet into the stratosphere. Since these volcano's occurred near the equator and upper level air flow is from the equator to the poles the impact was global. The albeito or the earth's ability to reflect and absorb solar radiation was effected. As a result the average temperature of earth dropped by almost a degree for a couple of years after their eruptions. According to Dr Snow the Eyjafjallajökull volcano will cause only a slightly cooler summer in England with no long term climate changes for anyone including Houstonians. Those wonderful English gardens might have to deal with acid rain and the sunsets will likely be spectacular through the summer.

 

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