Posts Tagged ‘volcano’

The volcano: an interesting scientific distraction.

May 27, 2010

I realise that the volcano that is currently erupting in Iceland has caused a lot of problems for a lot of people.

However, if I can see one plus side it’s all the impromptu atmospheric science that is going on around it. For example, the first paper about the volcano, which is looking at the electric charge of the ash plume from balloon measurements taken over Scotland, has just been published. [As an interesting aside, one the instruments that was used in this work uses the plastic case that holds the toy in a Kinder Egg!]

This is remarkably quick work. To collect data in April and then publish a paper in May is almost unheard of.

There’s plenty more examples of this and I’m sure lots of interesting science will emerge in the coming years as a result of this unforeseen event.

In Manchester where I work, a lot of people have put their usual work to one side to concentrate on the plume. One of my colleagues is currently in the Shetland Isles repairing an instrument that we moved up there last month to observe the plume and many others are away manning instruments on research planes that are investigating the plume or analysing the data that has been collected.

This is all an inconvenience and big projects are getting delayed but many people are working really hard to understand the ash cloud and are finding out new things along the way. So it’s not all bad.

ResearchBlogging.orgR G Harrison, K A Nicoll, Z Ulanowski and T A Mather (2010). Self-charging of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash plume Environ. Res. Lett., 5

The Icelandic volcano and weather

April 15, 2010

If you’re in the UK then I’m sure you’ve heard about the Icelandic volcano.  Its caused a shutdown of airspace in the UK as well as in Scandanavia and Holland because volcanic ash doesn’t mix well with aircraft engines.  The satellite image below shows the plume as of 10am on 15th April:

I just saw an interesting volcanologist on BBC News 24 explaining why this volcano is producing so much ash.  Apparently it’s because this volcano is beneath a glacier and this has led to the explosive eruptions that have sent the ash high into the atmosphere (up to the stratosphere).  An eruption from another Icelandic volcano earlier this month didn’t produce any problems as it wasn’t under a glacier and resulted in lava flows.  [Update: here’s a blog post about subglacial eruptions by a proper geologist.]

The interesting volcanologist also said that these eruptions can last anything from hours to years!

So it could be down to the weather to sort this one out.  The Met Office have issued a plot showing the location of the plume at 6am on 15th April.

If we take a look at the weather charts, we’re in a region of high pressure at the moment and this is drawing the ash south eastwards at the moment:

There’s not a lot of change tomorrow either so I doubt things will be much different then:

The high pressure moves eastwards a bit on Saturday so that may clear things away but I wouldn’t bank on it:

So it could be a while before the atmospheric circulation clears this ash away to make it safe for aviation.

On the plus side, this large injection of particles (aerosols) into the atmosphere could result in some really colouful sunsets – here’s an example – or even a blue moon.  These particle clouds can catch the light from the setting Sun at different heights to normal sunsets and this can be really beautiful!