Icelandic Volcano

Icelandic Volcano

Alisa Opar
Published: 04/20/2010


NASA satellites captured  images of the ash plume (brown) from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano from April 17-19 (left to right). The plume was obscured by high clouds on April 18. Credit: NASA's MODIS Rapid Response Team

Now that the ash has settled a bit, here’s a look at how the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano has affected everything from bird watching to carbon emissions to Kenyan vegetables.

Carbon emissions
The volcano is spewing CO2 into the atmosphere, but less on a daily basis than the European aviation industry (which has been halted until today) emits. The folks at informationisbeautiful.com created a graphic that shows a net decrease in carbon emissions since planes have been grounded.

Global cooling?
With Eyjafjallajökull spewing light-reflecting particles into the air, some are wondering if the volcanic eruption might have a cooling effect. Nope, says Richard Wunderman, a volcanologist with the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program. He told The New York Times that the volcanic plume contains a lot of sulfur “that can become an aerosol up there that hangs around a long time reflecting sunlight.” “It’s not enough that it’s probably going to be cooling the whole climate,” he added. On a regional basis, it could also create what is called volcano weather, with smoglike conditions.

Carpool Frenzy
The eruption may have spurred the largest carpooling efforts ever. In the last hour alone, 50 comments have been written on the Facebook page Carpool Europe. Stranded strangers all over the continent are connecting to share rides—in buses, cars, trains, boats. Twitter users are turning to #gethome for car shares, and to #putmeup for emergency accommodation, TG Daily reports.

Veggies wilt in Kenya
Kenya’s gourmet vegetables and cut-flower industry sends most of its products to Europe. No flights meant no exports. The New York Times describes a manager for a produce exporter looking at his wilting goods: “eight-feet-tall heaps of perfectly good carrots, onions, baby sweet corn and deliciously green sugar snap peas being dumped into the back of a pickup truck. “Cow food,” he said, shaking his head. “That’s about all we can do with it now.”

Bird watching
The volcano has been a boon for bird watchers. The lull in airplane traffic has made for quieter environs. Andre Farrar of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds told CNN: "It is palpably quieter, this is a good time not just for bird watchers, but also sound recordists and wildlife filmmakers. There is a link between birdsong and ambient noise, so for example birds living near motorways have louder birdsong than their counterparts in quieter parts of the country."?

Health effects
There’s been some disagreement among officials as to how dangerous volcanic ash is. While the World Health Organization warned people to stay indoors or wear masks as ash settled, saying that inhaled particles can cause respiratory problems, other experts said volcanic ash was much less dangerous than cigarette smoke or pollution, the AP reported.

How do you say “Eyjafjallajökull”?

Finally, some funny news. Icelanders are getting a big kick out of the rest of the world’s mispronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull (ay-uh-fyat-luh-yoe-kuutl-ul, which means “islandmountainglacier”) Still seem like a mouthful? Check out Eliza Geirsdottir Newman, an Icelandic musician, singing an exclusive song to Al Jazeera to help clarify the correct pronunciation. While informative, it might be one song that stays in my heart, instead of crossing my lips to torture you with my garbled attempt to say the name. You’re welcome.

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