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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.