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April 17, 2010
Iceland's Volcano May Affect Economy, Weather, Health Worldwide
It has been an unusual and dramatic natural event the past few days, but now an uneasy reality is setting in.
Scientists and government officials in Northern Europe and beyond are beginning to worry: How long will the Iceland volcano continue erupting?
In Iceland, hundreds of nearby residents have been evacuated. It gave a small indication March 20 of something to come, but this past Wednesday, when the volcano suddenly roared again to life, there were startling chain reactions:
Reuters has an amazing photo reel of the volcano.
The U.K. Daily Mail reports a million Britons are stranded in various parts of the world unable to get home due to flight restrictions. Fresh produce and other imported foods are growing scarce at U.K. groceries.
Iceland's volcano eruption is now costing airlines around the world an estimated $200 million in revenue per day. Plane engines can be totally disabled by flying in the silica-laden particulate clouds. The ash is beginning to settle in the U.K. The cloud of ash and smoke is now at least 4 miles high and can be seen from outer space and could impact the weather worldwide.
In addition the World Health Organization has now issued a warning for people in northern Europe to consider wearing facemasks to avoid breathing the grainy smoke.
Based on the health histories of other volcanic explosions, such as Mt. St. Helens in the United States, the WHO says the health risk could continue long after the eruptions have stopped.
Icelandic volcanoes have been erupting from deep below ancient glaciers since before the dawn of man. Some of the gaseous clouds and lava flows were so huge they affected Earth's climate. It is believed the "Little Ice Age" (roughly 1700-1900) was especially harsh because of the 8-month-long Laki volcano eruption in Iceland in 1783.
The extreme weather is believed to have inspired certain political events.
It is a primitive, awe-inspiring sight. It is easy to understand why early Icelanders named their volcanoes such things as "Gate to Hell" believing that souls could be pulled down into the molten, moving masses of earth.
The problem is, the eruption of Eyjafjallajökulle, even if it stops fairly soon, may trigger an eruption of a nearby, and much larger, "sister" volcano called Katla.
Iceland's "Gate to Hell" is re-opening. How much of its ancient history we have to re-live is just as much a force of nature and out of man's control as it has been for centuries.
Jane Jamison is editor of the conservative news/commentary blog, UNCOVERAGE.net.