Saturday, 17 April 2010

More Than You'd Want to Know About the Latest Volcano

First off, some news: On Thursday the 15th all airports in the UK closed and no flights were allowed out of in because of a volcanic eruption in Iceland. I was half asleep when Robbie came in with the coffee and this news. I thought I was having some sort of bizarre dream or I hadn’t heard him right but it’s true. The BBC news that evening said that Thursday was the first time since the Wright brothers that the skies were so empty! People living near airports are hearing birds singing instead of planes taking off and landing.

The cloud of ash from the volcano has been blown this way over Britain, starting at the north of Scotland early Thursday morning and spreading all the way down to England and then on to Europe. Air traffic was first cancelled here in Scotland and now it’s pretty much spread to Europe. Now they’re saying this might be the case for a week or more, depending on how much the volcano keeps erupting and spewing out ash.

Apparently the ash is damaging to jet engines in that it gets sucked into the turbines and heats up and then can make the engines stall.

The ash is high in the sky in the jet stream and really hasn’t come to earth much. Today, Saturday, we’ve got clouds and rain that are under the cloud. Up till today we’ve had sunny skies with barely a cloud in the sky. The only thing we could possibly imagine was a slight haze off toward the hills of the Highlands. The red, spectacular sunsets they thought we might experience have not, so far, been seen and Robbie’s still looking for a “blue moon” (no don’t get him started singing!).

So, if you’re not here already you can’t get here and if you’re here and want to fly out—forget it. People can’t even fly from England to Ireland, it’s back to using boats or trains across the Channel too and as you can imagine, they’re now all crowded.

Personally, as I said, so far, we haven’t had or seen any effects of the ash. They are warning anyone with respiratory problems to take your medication with you and take precautions. Robbie always has his inhalers with him anyway and I don’t think he’ll take up jogging any time soon. Perhaps the ash and dust won’t be good for the cars’ finishes and I might have to dust more often but I’ve been keeping the windows shut anyway (still too cold to open them). Maybe volcanic ash will be good for the gardens...who knows?

This was in the paper Friday that gives some more information:

Q & A

WHAT is volcanic ash?

Tiny particles of smashed rock and glass that are sent into the air by a volcanic eruption and float high in the atmosphere until they are dispersed by winds.

WHY does volcanic ash affect aircraft?

The microscopic particles are very sharp and can strip vital surfaces and clog up the engine, causing the plane to stall and the engines to shut down. Aircraft avionics and electronics can also be damaged.

HAS volcanic ash ever actually crippled a plane?

Yes. in the Eighties mushroom clouds from a volcano shut down all a plane's engines in two separate incidents. In both cases the passengers had a narrow escape after they were saved by the heroics of the crew.

CAN it be seen?

The Met Office says it is unlikely to be visible. But many parts of the country should see a spectacular sunset that is caused by light passing through the cloud.

COULD it damage my health?

Medical experts claim the ash cloud does not pose a health hazard as it so high up in the atmosphere and not at ground level. However, British Lung Foundation spokesman Professor Malcolm Green said: "We would recommend anyone living with a lung condition to carry their medication as a precaution." Professor Ken Donaldson, Professor of Respiratory Toxicology, at the University of Edinburgh, said previous volcanic eruptions had shown few health effects on exposed populations. However, experts recommend that the public should exercise caution if ash does eventually fall to the ground.

WHERE will the ash cloud go?

It is predicted to go south through the UK and then east across Scandinavia and northern Continental Europe.

HOW long will the cloud last?

It depends on the weather. The Met Office says it may stay over the UK until the end of today. But its impact on air travel could be more long-lasting.

WHAT will it cost the country?

Experts say the dust cloud will cost the economy billions by wounding airlines, stopping business travel and impeding the vital movement of goods.

WILL the ash damage my car or garden?
The ash will not settle in the UK as the cloud remains high up, according to experts.

So I'm sure that's more than you've wanted to know about the recent volcano and its effects on us here. I'll write soon about some more personal things like: Things I’ve Found I Can’t Live Without.

Oh and if you haven't heard the name of the Iclandic volcano is: Eyjafjallajokull I'm not kidding!

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