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Iceland volcano - Lucky we weren't wiped out
The News - Natural Disasters
April 21, 2010
iceland volcano humans lucky

The volcanic ash cloud from Eyjafjallajokull has caused travel chaos and misery. But we were lucky. An eruption in the future could wipe out the human race .

Great volcanoes have a habit of prompting profound changes to the world - very much greater in extent than the most savage of earthquakes and tsunamis , even though the immediate lethality of the latter is invariably much more cruel. Though ground-shaking events are generally fairly local in extent, their potential for killing can be terrific: 250,000 died after the Tangshan earthquake in China in 1975; and a similar number died in the Indian ocean tsunami of 2004. Volcanoes seem by contrast relatively benign: the accumulated total number of deaths in all of the great volcanoes of the last 300 years has probably not exceeded a quarter of a million: the total number of casualties from a hundred of the biggest recent eruptions has been no more than those from a single giant earthquake.

But there is a signal difference. Earthquakes and their aftershocks, once done, are done. Volcanoes, however, often trigger long-term and long-distance ill-effects, which history indicates generally far outweigh their immediate rain of death and destruction. Emanations of particles from the tiniest pinprick in the earth's crust, once lifted high into the skies by an explosive eruption, can wind themselves sinuously and menacingly around the entire planet, and leave all kinds of devastation in their train. They can disrupt and pollute and poison; they can darken skies and cause devastating changes in the weather; they can and do bring about the abrupt end to the existence of entire populations of animals and people.

Earthquakes and tsunamis have never been known to cause extinctions ; but volcanoes and asteroid collisions have done so repeatedly – and since the earth is today still peppered with scores of thousands of volcanoes ever yearning to erupt, they and the dramatic long-term effects of their eruptions are in fact far more frequent, far more decisive, and far greater than those that are triggered by any other natural phenomenon on the planet. [ GUARDIAN UK ]

SDO: Solar Dynamics Observatory returns first images
The News - Science-Astronomy
April 21, 2010
turbulent sun

Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory has provided an astonishing new vista on our turbulent star.

The first public release of images from the satellite record huge explosions and great looping prominences of gas. The observatory's super-fine resolution is expected to help scientists get a better understanding of what drives solar activity.

Launched in February on an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral, SDO is expected to operate for at least five years. Researchers hope in this time to go a long way towards their eventual goal of being able to forecast the effects of the Sun's behaviour on Earth.

Solar activity has a profound influence on our planet. Huge eruptions of charged particles and the emission of intense radiation can disrupt satellite, communication and power systems, and pose a serious health risk to astronauts. [ BBC NEWS ]

Will Katla Volcano erupt? - Threat of larger eruption looms
The News - Natural Disasters
April 20, 2010
katla volcano eruption
For all the worldwide chaos that Iceland's volcano has already created, it may just be the opening act.

Scientists fear tremors at the Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) volcano could trigger an even more dangerous eruption at the nearby Katla volcano - creating a worst-case scenario for the airline industry and travelers around the globe.

How big would a Katla eruption be?

A Katla eruption would be 10 times stronger and shoot higher and larger plumes of ash into the air than its smaller neighbor, which has already brought European air travel to a standstill for five days and promises severe travel delays for days more.

The two volcanos are side by side in southern Iceland, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) apart and thought to be connected by a network of magma channels.

Katla, however, is buried under ice 550 yards (500 meters) thick - the massive Myrdalsjokull glacier, one of Iceland's largest. That means it has more than twice the amount of ice that the current eruption has burned through - threatening a new and possibly longer aviation standstill across Europe. Katla showed no signs of activity Tuesday, according to scientists who monitor it with seismic sensors, but they were still wary. [ BREITBART ]

Five biggest volcano eruptions in modern times
The News - Natural Disasters
April 20, 2010
biggest volcano recently

Five largest volcano eruptions in modern history.

The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland is having a major impact on travel and commerce in Europe and worldwide. However, as a volcanic event (in terms of scale), it barely is worth mentioning.

By the measure of the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) - a sort-of Richter scale for eruptions - the current outburst is probably a 2 or a 3, experts say. In other words, eruptions like Eyjafjallajökull happen virtually every year somewhere in the world. It's a regular occurance.

The biggest eruption of the past millennium , by contrast, was a 7. Given that each number on the scale represents an eruption 10 times more powerful than the previous, that means Eyjafjallajökull is 10,000 times less powerful than one in Indonesia's Sunda Islands in 1815. [ CSM ] [ Worst Disasters by death toll ]

Top 5 : Tambora , Krakatoa, Novarupta, Pinatubo and Santa Maria.

MORE BUNKERS! Shanghai leaders stress the date of 2012 is purely a coincidence
The News - Current Events
April 20, 2010

A 15-second-long piece of news broadcast on a local television channel has raised the uneasy question of whether the municipal government is anticipating some calamitous natural disasters in 2012.

A short news segment on Dragon TV disclosed that the construction of up to three underground emergency shelters will be completed by 2012. The segment touched the nerves of many people who, apparently, fear the premise of the Hollywood movie 2012 that the world will end by then.

"I was intrigued when I saw that broadcast," wrote yuxiqingchen, a netizen on Tianya.cn, a popular Chinese online forum. "Is there anything our government isn't telling us?" The post has been forwarded to many other major online forums, especially in the Shanghai region.

"The whole thing smells fishy. Why emphasize 2012? What will happen then?" one netizen asked. After the huge success of the film 2012, many people have indulged in the game of establishing a link between the recent earthquakes and doom prophesies. [ China Daily ]

Will the Katla volcano erupt next?
The News - Current Events
April 19, 2010
katla volcano erupts

The word on everyone’s lips right now is ‘volcano.’ The eruption of the long-dormant Eyjafjallajökull on March 21st has absolutely devastated travel across the UK and most of Europe. Most websites on the internet cannot cope with the amount of traffic from people trying to find ways home - the P&O Ferries website has actually crashed due to so many people trying to catch a boat. And phone systems are ringing off the hook.

 But is this only the beginning to the main event?

Katla is another volcano in Iceland. Situated to the north of Vík í Mýrdal and partly covered by the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Katla’s peak reaches 1,512 metres. Katla last had a major eruption in 1918 and the one word used to describe that has been ‘vicious.’ Since 1999, geologists have been uneasy around the Katla volcano as it showed signs of waking up and historically, every time the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupts, Katla soon follows. The past two days has seen an increase of 200% in Katla’s activity. This isn’t something to just worry the residents of Iceland, but of the whole world too. Smog, famine, floods and freezing were just some of the things the last Katla eruption caused. Let’s hope that travel disruption is the worst of it.

Hekla Has NOT Started Erupting
The News - Current Events
April 19, 2010
Despite what many tweets would have, Mt. Hekla has not started erupting.This has been confirmed by Grapevine representatives on location, and the whole of the Icelandic media.

We have no idea how this crazy rumour got started, but we imagine some genius spotted the RÚV webcam of Hekla (their "Hekla watch," which has been ongoing for years, as Hekla is overdue for an eruption), spotted a plume or two and did some pretty awful guesswork. [ SOURCE ]
Iceland Volcano Isn't Big Enough to 'Change World's Climate'
The News - Climate-Environment
April 19, 2010
iceland volcano world climate
The volcanic ash spewing from an Icelandic mountain that’s disrupting air travel across Europe may be hundreds of times less than what Mount Pinatubo disgorged in the Philippines in 1991 when it altered the world’s climate.

The impact of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano is likely to be “virtually non-existent” on the global climate because the eruption is too small and gases are not penetrating the upper atmosphere, Blair Trewin, a senior climatologist at Australia’s National Climate Centre in Melbourne, said in an interview.

“In its current form, we wouldn’t expect the eruption to have any significant global climate effects,” Trewin said today by telephone. “In terms of how much material was being put up into the atmosphere, Pinatubo was several hundred times larger than this has been so far.”[ Bloomberg News ]

Volcanic ash relentless as tremors rock Iceland
The News - Natural Disasters
April 19, 2010
volcano lightning iceland

  • Ash column above volcano now lower at a height of 4-5 km
  • Farmers, livestock moved indoors as ash falls
  • Icelandic airlines now running flights to Norway

Powerful tremors from an Icelandic volcano that has been a menace for travellers across Europe shook the countryside on Sunday as eruptions hurled a steady stream of ash into the sky.

Ash from the volcano drifted southeast towards the European continent, sparing the capital Reykjavik and other more populated centres but forcing farmers and their livestock indoors as a blanket of ash fell on the surrounding areas.

"We are all doing our utmost to make sure that the farming community in this area survives this disaster," Icelandic President Olafur Grimsson told Reuters Television. [ REUTERS

Company plans doomsday bunkers - California
The News - Current Events
April 19, 2010
doomsday bunker

A U.S. company will start building commercial underground bunkers for people who want to survive an apocalypse such as an asteroid hitting the Earth or a nuclear attack , media reported on Monday.

Vivos, a California-based company, said it is planning a business project that offers the hope of surviving a near-extinction-level event , like the one many people say the Mayans predicted will occur in 2012.

Vivos said it plans to set up 20 "multi-level, 20,000 square foot (1,858 square meters) hardened shelter," with each housing up to 200 people across the United States.

The bunkers will be designed to withstand outdoor temperatures of 700 degrees Celsius, winds of 700 kilometers an hour, flooding for 500 hours or a wave of earthquakes over 10 on the Richter scale. Besides, a portion of the bunkers even includes refurbished Cold War-era nuclear shelters.

Lyrid meteor shower peaks April 22
The News - Science-Astronomy
April 19, 2010
Anyone who enjoys watching the sky for "shooting stars" will have an opportunity to observe an old and reliable meteor display over the next several days: the April Lyrids. The best time to watch will be for a night or two around the peak, April 22.

These meteors are among the oldest known, with ancient records of them dating back nearly 27 centuries. The Lyrid meteor shower is also the first significant meteor shower to appear since the beginning of the year. While it won't produce a storm of meteors, it's a respectable show for those who are patient.

"The annual Lyrid shower . . . has always been my favorite," says NASA meteor expert Peter Jenniskens. "After the low (meteor) rates in the cold months of February and March, this shower is the proverbial swallow of spring for observers in the northern hemisphere." [ ARMAGEDDON ONLINE ]

Iceland Volcano reminds us that we should all be afraid of volcanoes
The News - Natural Disasters
April 17, 2010
why we should fear volcanoes

Eyjafjallajökull's giant cloud of ash is a pest, but a supervolcano's catastrophic eruption could threaten the fabric of civilization.

Every so often the Earth chooses to remind us that we really aren't in control of this planet . The volcanic eruption in Iceland , which started on Wednesday, is just such a reminder. As ash spews out across northern Europe - grounding all flights across Scandinavia and the UK, we begin to realise how powerless we humans really are.

But as volcanic eruptions go, the current fireworks on Iceland are a relative small fry. Scientists "rank" volcanoes according to how explosive they are, using the volcanic explosivity index (VEI) , which goes from zero to eight. The measurement is based on how much material is thrown out of the volcano, how high the eruption goes and how long it lasts. Like the scale used to measure earthquake size , the VEI is logarithmic : which means that a volcano with a VEI of five is 10 times more powerful than one with a VEI of four.

As yet, scientists haven't managed to gather enough data to calculate the VEI of Eyjafjallajökull, but Thorvaldur Thordarson, an expert on Icelandic volcanism at the University of Edinburgh, estimates that this one is probably a two or three - somewhat similar to the eruptions seen on Mount Etna on Sicily in 2002 and 2003, and the kind of eruption we expect to see somewhere on Earth at least once every year.

By contrast, the eruption of Mount St Helens, in the north-west of the US in May 1980, was a one-in-10-year event, with a VEI of around four. Meanwhile, Pinatubo's boom in the Philippines in 1991 was a one-in-50 to 100-year spectacle, with a VEI of about five or six. Bigger still was the eruption of Tambora in 1815, on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, whose ash was responsible for some of the spectacular sunsets painted by J M W Turner. Rated as a seven on the VEI scale (a one-in-1,000-year event), it was the most deadly eruption in recorded history , killing over 70,000 people.

See Also : Lake Toba Super VolcanoThe Worst Natural Disasters - Yellowstone's Super Sisters

Rare Yellowstone volcano eruption would be deadly
The News - Natural Disasters
April 18, 2010
As ash from an Iceland volcano snarled air travel across Europe, experts said an eruption of the 'supervolcano' at the Yellowstone national park would be deadly, though it is unlikely any time soon.

"The next major eruption for Yellowstone, if you have a guess, is probably thousands of years in the future," Bill Burton, a vulcanologist with the US Geological Survey, told AFP.

The volcano, dubbed a 'supervolcano' because of its enormous strength, has not erupted for hundreds of thousands of years.

It last erupted some 640,000 years ago, and the two prior eruptions were 1.3 million and 2.1 million years ago. That track record -- a major event approximately each 730,000 years -- suggests the volcano won't erupt again for another 90,000 years, though Burton noted that there is no real certainty when it comes to volcanic activity.

"You cannot be totally complacent and assume nothing is going to happen," he said.

For vulcanologists, the key is continued study of the history of individual sites. "The more we know about their past behavior makes you a little more confident about what's going to happen next," Burton said.

How and why a volcano erupts
The News - Science-Astronomy
April 17, 2010
Eyjafjallajokull volcano iceland
Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano is in the second phase of an eruption that began last month. Like all volcanos, the eruption started when boiling hot subterranean liquid rock, known as magma, found a weak spot in the Earth's crust and burst through. Scientists spent weeks analysing the gases and magma that emerged, which is then renamed as lava.

Mike Burton, senior volcanologist with the Italian National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology, said: "Thanks to its location between the glaciers, it produced a largely ash-free eruption, with abundant lava flows. I conducted measurements of the gas emissions from the eruption in collaboration with Icelandic scientists."

That phase of the eruption died down last week, but Eyjafjallajokull was not finished. A second, more powerful, eruption occurred when magma burst through at another point. Unlike the first eruption, this rupture in the Earth's crust was close to the volcano's glacier-covered summit. Fire met ice and fire won. Massive amounts of ice melted and flash floods followed.

Once the eruption melted away its icy lid, some 150 metres (492ft) thick, the volcano began to belch ash into the atmosphere.

Massive Earthquake in Chile Caused Days to Be Longer
The News - Science-Astronomy
April 17, 2010

Since the earthquake in Chile in February 2010, the advanced geodesy research group at the Institute of Geodesy and Geophysics at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) has been helping measure Earth on a global scale. First results indicate that the rotational speed of Earth has become marginally slower and days have become longer by 0.3 microseconds.

Sun's magnetic field may have caused freezing winter
The News - Climate-Environment
April 17, 2010
suns magnetic field freezing winter
It was the coldest winter in England since 1963 – the coldest in Scotland since 1914 – and weeks of ice, snow and sub-zero temperatures from last December to March defied predictions by climate-change scientists of milder, wetter winters. So what happened?

One theory suggests that last winter's cold temperatures were part of a pattern that is set to continue because of a complex interaction between the Sun's magnetic field and the high-altitude jet stream which dominates Britain's weather system. The jet stream normally brings mild, damp westerly winds over Britain during winter but this year it went into "blocking" mode, sweeping back on itself and allowing a bitterly cold north-east wind to blow over the country, bringing ice and snow with it.

Scientists have found a link between blocking changes to the jet stream that result in colder winters and variations in the "activity" of the Sun, as measured by alterations in its magnetic field. This could mean that the UK can expect more cold winters than usual in the coming decade, despite "global warming." (INDEPENDENT UK)

Will the Iceland Volcano Change the Climate?
The News - Climate-Environment
April 17, 2010
iceland volcano climate change
The vast plume of material spewing from this week's eruption of an Icelandic volcano is reddening sunsets and clouding skies across Europe. If the eruptions continue and get bigger — a possibility given the explosive history of Iceland's volcanoes — even the global climate could be affected. But the current eruption is too wimpy to have any significant impact, scientists say.

The eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano may be treating European sky watchers to spectacular sunsets and hampering air travel due to the ash and gas it has spewed into the atmosphere. But "there will be no effect on climate," said Alan Robock of Rutgers University, who studies the effects of volcanic eruptions on climate.

The potential for Eyjafjallajökull to impact the Earth's climate is still there, however, if it begins to erupt more violently.

"If it has another eruption in the future, it could have an impact," Robock said.(LIVE SCIENCE)

China earthquake toll rises to 1,144
The News - Natural Disasters
April 16, 2010
china earthquake death toll
Tibetan monks prayed Friday over hundreds of bodies at a makeshift morgue next to their monastery after powerful earthquakes destroyed the remote mountain town of Jiegu in western China and left at least 1,144 people dead.

State media on Friday reported that another 417 people remain missing -- as rescuers neared the end of the 72-hour period viewed as best for finding people alive. They continued to dig for survivors in the rubble, often by hand.

The official toll was likely to climb further. Gerlai Tenzing, a red-robed monk from the Jiegu Monastery, estimated that about 1,000 bodies had been brought to a hillside clearing in the shadow of the monastery. He said a precise count was difficult because bodies continued to trickle in and some had already been taken away by family members. (DailyHearald)

Huge ash plume blanketing Europe may last four more days
The News - Current Events
April 16, 2010

The unprecedented closure of airspace across Britain and large parts of Northern Europe is set to continue into the weekend, after the volcanic eruption in Iceland that sent a massive plume of ash into the atmosphere.

As debris continued to spew from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, airlines were last night preparing to ground flights for at least four more days.

Hundreds of thousands of stranded passengers, already experiencing the worst travel chaos in living memory, faced trying to make alternative arrangements by rail, road or sea — or cancelling their trips.

The National Air Traffic Service denied that it had overreacted by closing UK airspace. It said: “Safety is our main priority and volcanic ash is a serious threat to aircraft.” Safety experts said that if the ash is sucked into jet engines it can cause them to fail catastrophically. (TIMES ONLINE)

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