An ash cloud from a volcano in Iceland is disrupting air travel in Europe.
(Above–The offending volcano. It is called Eyjafjallajoekull. This name is combination of the worlds “islands”, “mountain” and “glacier”. The picture was taken by a photographer giving his or herself the name “boaworm” )
(Update–5/21/11–The volcano erupting in Iceland at the moment is a different volcano. However, much of the information in this post is about volcanoes in general, and would be useful to read to learn more overall about the subject. Thank you for reading Texas Liberal.)
(Update—4/19/10—There is a new ash cloud.)
(Update—4/20/10—Half of EU flights may be in the air by the end of Tuesday.)
(Update–4/21/10—More flights up and running.)
(Update–4/25/10–Europe is looking for new ways to deal with a future eruption.)
(Update–5/5/10–Airports are closed in Ireland and Scotland.)
(Update–5/8/10—Yet more ash in the sky.)
(Update 5/16/10—It goes on and on.)
There are many accounts of what is taking place that you can find on the web or in your local newspaper. (This blog is a big believer in supporting your local newspaper and taking the time to read the news and reflect upon the news with a cup of coffee or in some other civilized way.)
In this post, I’ll address some more basic issues of what is taking place that are not always discussed in news reports.
First of all—What exactly is a volcano?
Here is an explanation of volcanoes from an interview with a scientist conducted by the children’s book publisher Scholastic—
“Volcanoes are really mountains that build taller and taller, with time, as they erupt. That means that molten rock, magma, comes from within the earth and erupts onto the surface. The volcano might be explosive and produce ashes or be effusive and produce lava. The explosions are usually first because there are lots of gases inside the magma. When you have a bottle of soda pop, you do not see any bubbles of gas, but when you open it, bubbles form almost instantly. Once the gas bubbles have all escaped, the soda is flat. Once the magma is flat, a lava flow comes out. Most of the volcanoes from around the Pacific Ocean are composite, which means that there are layers of ashes and lava. Most volcanoes are 10,000 to 100,000 years old — it takes time for them to grow big.”
Some volcanoes are underwater. Here is a post I recently wrote that has many facts about undersea volcanoes.
The Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington reports the following about the origin of the word volcano–
“The word “volcano” comes from the little island of Vulcano in the Mediterranean Sea off Sicily. Centuries ago, the people living in this area believed that Vulcano was the chimney of the forge of Vulcan — the blacksmith of the Roman gods. They thought that the hot lava fragments and clouds of dust erupting form Vulcano came from Vulcan’s forge as he beat out thunderbolts for Jupiter, king of the gods, and weapons for Mars, the god of war. In Polynesia the people attributed eruptive activity to the beautiful but wrathful Pele, Goddess of Volcanoes, whenever she was angry or spiteful. Today we know that volcanic eruptions are not super-natural but can be studied and interpreted by scientists.”
(Below—A picture of the Vulcano island.)
The issue from the Icelandic volcano that is causing all the trouble is volcanic ash. Here are facts about volcanic ash from the United States Geological Survey. This link gives you all the facts you need about volcanic ash.
From these facts—
“Small jagged pieces of rocks, minerals, and volcanic glass the size of sand and silt (less than 2 millimeters (1/12 inch) in diameter) erupted by a volcano are called volcanic ash. Very small ash particles can be less than 0.001 millimeters (1/25,000th of an inch) across. Volcanic ash is not the product of combustion, like the soft fluffy material created by burning wood, leaves, or paper. Volcanic ash is hard, does not dissolve in water, is extremely abrasive and mildly corrosive, and conducts electricity when wet.”
However, if you need even more facts on ash, the BBC has a Q & A.
You can see why you would not want something like that clogging up your jet engine.
The Earth is a complex place with an interesting geology that merits study even when no big disaster is taking place.
Here is a link to Geology. com. There is a great deal of information at this site about the Earth.
A very useful book to learn about these topics is called Earth–The Definitive Visual Guide. I have this book at home and look at it often. It has great pictures and helpful text to help folks understand the world.
There is a lot more to our existence than just freak-show ash clouds that make people study things they might not otherwise consider. Please be someone who is informed and who is curious about as many things as possible. We all the ability to know many things. The information we need to learn these things is all around us if we just make some effort.
(Below—The Cleveland Volcano in Alaska as photographed from space in 2006.)