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Stock Up on Winter Coats

Posted by susabelle at 7:44 AM on March 26, 2010

I think I’d better learn to knit and get a few sweaters and scarves under way. Just in case we step into a global cooling period, thanks to an Icelandic volcano with a hot temper. If you think it can’t happen, it’s only because your human memory is rather short.

I’m reading a really interesting book called “Cold,” by Bill Streever, in which he outlines several smaller global environmental crises over the last several hundred years that have plunged the earth into a mini ice age, or at least into a year “without summer.” One of those incidents was the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora on April 5th, 1815. The largest eruption in modern history, it plunged the earth into a darkened state for more than a year, leading to the “Year Without a Summer” in 1816. Tambora’s sulfur-laden gasses spewed 28 miles through the atmosphere and into the stratosphere, bringing a darkened haze to the entire northern Hemisphere, resulting in freezing temperatures well into August of 1816. Crops failed, livestock starved to death, and the world’s population reduced by an estimated 3.4 million people due to starvation or direct consequence of the eruption itself.

Iceland’s Katla volcano, currently covered with a thick glacier of ice, is often disturbed by the eruptions of its neighbor, the volcano Eyjafjallajokull. And right now, Eyjafjallajokull is burping lava day after day, greatly increasing the likelihood that Katla will erupt itself. The last time it had a major eruption, in the 1700′s, the north American continent experienced a very cold summer. Scientists in Iceland are continuing to monitor seismic activity in the area, and will likely be able to predict if an eruption is imminent.

Let me know if you’ll be needing that extra hand-knit scarf for next year. I’m taking orders now.

5 Comments

  1. From Bjorn at 2:01 am on March 27, 2010

    Mixing up Icelandic volcanos here thanks to the morons at Fox. Katla last blew in 1918 and while a Katla eruption would certainly mean localised flooding, it won’t be anything like the Laki eruptions of 1783, which did indeed have global effects.
    That fearmongering self-seller at Fox was right though that at any time one of the umpteen big volcanos could blow and cause global damage. But there’s no particular danger from Katla, even if it erupts..

  2. From susabelle at 8:20 am on March 27, 2010

    Actually, Bjorn, none of the research in my article came from Fox News. I don’t read/watch Fox News, but use other sources. The initial story was in USAToday but then I went out and did other research, and most of the other information came from the book by Bill Streever.

  3. From Bjorn at 8:37 am on March 27, 2010

    Fair enough, there’s a Fox video doing the rounds here that’s having us in stitches.
    You still got it wrong though on the Icelandic details.

  4. From susabelle at 5:15 pm on March 27, 2010

    I’ll have to go back out and look at my sources again. I compiled information from several Icelandic sites; maybe there was trouble in translation too. I had seen the Katla and Eyjafjallajokull volcanoes linked, saying that if Eyjafjallajokull got too testy and melted too much of the glacier covering Katla, that Katla could go off as well, and that there are several times in history when Eyjafjallajokull triggered trouble with Katla. This story completely fascinates me, however, and I would not have known any details at all if I’d not been reading Streever’s book.

  5. From Bjorn at 11:33 pm on March 31, 2010

    Last comment is all … well mostly correct, apart from it’s the underground connections that would set off Katla, not any melting of the glacier from off top of Katla.
    It’s the Laki connection which is WAY off and it was the Laki eruptions which caused that devastation back in the 18th century. Laki is in an entirely different place (even if not *that* far away when you’re used to US distances) and will not be set off by either the current eruption or Katla.
    So, local damage, not global.