Iceland Volcano Not Necessarily Precursor to Global Calamity
March 22, 2010

Click For More On Iceland Volcano Exploding from Ice Cap

Myrdalsjokull Glacier Looms

Several weeks ago, I spoke of the threat of a volcanic eruption in Iceland. Correct headline, correct country, wrong volcano. I was speaking of news regarding Mt. Hekla and how some observations had been made that the summit was absent of snow and that there was speculation that may have indicated an impending eruption. I wonder if there is a connection. It’s purely speculation on my part and I have a very limited background in geology and vulcanology, but I wonder if perhaps magma was coming to the surface at Mt. Hekla while at the same time was rising to the surface elsewhere and the pressure was instead released with the recent eruption at the Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) volcano.   Eyjafjallajokull is apparently considered to be a relatively small volcano and there is some concern due to its close proximity to the glacier of the same name.  If you heat up a bunch of ice, it tends to melt and then there is a big flood.  But, there is a larger concern.

Hot Spot Volcanic Island Life Cycle

Now the last time that Eyjafjallajokull erupted was in 1821 and it was boring eruption which oozed lava in a rather slow, pedestrian manner for a couple of days.   Keep in mind that Iceland was settled by the Vikings in the 9th century and is known as the land of fire and ice because its covered in glaciers but is also an island of volcanoes.  Islands such as Iceland are created by thermal plumes in the earth’s crust that create hot spots.  Iceland and island chains like Hawaii are formed by hot spots in which a volcano emerges from the depths and and island forms.  The earth’s crust moves and so the next time a plume develops, a new island forms after the old one has moved on.  Unlike Hawaii which is in the tropical region, Iceland is pretty close to the Arctic Circle so its not the same kind of paradise as Hawaii.  Now, one of the more active volcanoes on Iceland is the previously mentioned Hekla volcano which gained the moniker of the “Gateway to Hell” during the Middle Ages because the locals believed that souls were dragged below.

Mt Katla Has Interesting Ignatius Formations Similar to Devils Post Pile and also areas found in Pacific Northwest

The fear now is not the current eruption, but instead that it could create a larger fissure that would be the catalyst for an eruption of nearby Mount Katla.  Experts say that historical evidence suggests that when Eyjafjallajokull blows, Katla follows. But, they don’t know when. So, it could be tomorrow or years from now.  But, leave it to the media to not miss the chance for a dramatic headline.  NBC goes so far as to say that the volcano that is only speculated to maybe erupt at some distant time could have “world consequences.”     That is because in1783, the Laki volcano erupted, causing scores to die of famine when livestock and crops were destroyed and changing weather patterns across Europe.  Some historians link the climate disruption to the French Revolution and in 1784, the US had one of its coldest winters on record with the Mississippi River supposedly freezing at New Orleans. 

Iceland Glaciers Create Cool Waterfalls...Volcanoes can make waterflow extreme

The Katla volcano, which lies under the thick Myrdalsjokull icecap, has not erupted since 1918. Since Eyjafjallajokull hasn’t erupted since 1821, that would suggest that Katla is not necessarily terminally linked to Eyjafjallajokull.  So, that would seem to me to allow for the possibility that an Eyjafjallajokull eruption does not necessarily mean a Katla eruption.  Now, the idea that these two volcanoes do have some sort of apparent historical link, it makes me wonder if it is so unreasonable for me to speculate whether the Mt. Hekla observations are somehow connected.   Who knows? And who knows if there would be gloom and doom for the world with a Mt. Katla eruption.  No doubt, it would cause a huge flooding problem with the melting of the adjacent glacier.  But, the doomsday scenario that is being trumpeted as a potential since it happened in the late 18th century is a bit misleading.  You can’t necessarily take one incident in history and then say that if that event happened again, the results would be the same 240 years later.  And in this case, they aren’t even talking about the same volcano.  So, here’s the real lowdown:  Eyjafjallajokull eruptions have been known to preceed a larger eruption of Katla but not all Katla eruptions are preceeded by a Eyjafjallajokull eruption and the Laki eruption in 1783 created global consequences and we’re talking about Mt. Katla in 2010, not 1783.  Possible, not necessarily probable and certainly not worthy of scare tactic headlines.

Weather Bottom Line:  Told you we wouldn’t get out of the 40′s on Monday.  Official high was in low 50′s but that was just after midnight.  Doesn’t count unless you are our adopted stray cat, Paintbrush.  But, Snow White has a nice warm bed for him on our front porch so the falling temperatures weren’t a problem.  After a chilly night, Paintbrush and the rest of us will warm up nicely to the low 60′s on Tuesday and then mid 60′s on Wednesday with the sun doing its job.  Low to mid 60′s Thursday will help fuel rain and perhaps a few rumbles of thunder as another cold front swings through.

Feb. 26 Death Toll: Volcano 0,Terrorists 6, Corporation 125
February 26, 2010

Mt. Hekla Put On A Spectacular Show in 1970. Is it Showtime Again?

Mt. Hekla Looms Over Iceland

On This Date in History:  Iceland is a rather ironic name for an island-nation that is not only formed from volcanic activity but is also a vulcanologist’s fantasy land.  It is known as the land of Fire and Ice because of Iceland’s climate, that is cold but not as cold as one might think due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream,  and the number of volcanoes that dot the landscape.  One source claims that there is some 200 volcanoes in Iceland, the Global Volcansim Program features 32 volcanoes on Iceland while the Michigan Technological University Volcanoes Page indicates 6 active volcanoes on the island.  I suppose the differences have to do with the parameters one uses to define a volcano and it’s state of activity.  Anyway, one volcano that goes on every list is Mt. Hekla.  From the top, you can take spectacular summit view video from Mt. Hekla.   It is active and has a recent history of erupting about every 10 years.  It hasn’t always been that regular though.   

Hekla's 2000 Plume rose to at least 13 km

A history of Mt. Hekla reveals that it erupted in 1104 and then did so for the 17th time since then in 1991.    The last time Mt. Hekla erupted was on this date in 2000.  And now, University of Iceland Earth Science Professor Freysteinn Sigmundsson says that recent activity suggests that Hekla may be up to no good again.  In December and January 2010, reports were circulating that the top of the big guy was void of snow, which is unusual in the middle of winter and especially since the past several months have been particularly cold.  Apparently, it could be a clue because it may mean the top is heating up.  But, not necessarily…well have to wait and see.  After all February 26 has at least a small history of disasters but the two I’m thinking of had everything to do with man and very little with Mother Nature. 

People Might Not Be Aware of the Extent of 1993 WTC Substructure Damage

Did you Forget that on This date in History… 

 the World Trade Center was bombed? Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001…but the first attempt to bring down the towers happened on February 26, 1993. The above photo is from the ATF files of the incident. Nice hole, huh? I suspect the bad guys got closer to undermining the integrity of the substructure than we were led to believe. No matter, they came back again 8 years later after we forgot about their intentions. While everyone remembers Sept. 11, 2001 and the events of the day I sometimes wonder if we remember enough that we take seriously the possibility that they will come back again, just as they did following their near-miss of February 26, 1993. With all of the justified pre-occupation with the economy, how certain are you that the new administration is as vigilante as it can be to thwart any more attacks? Or perhaps, do you think that there will be no more attacks? 

West Virginia Town Wiped Out

West Virginia Town Wiped Out

Now, as I said I suspect that a mega disaster was narrowly avoided at the World Trade Center in 1993 and there is no question that September 2000 was just an catastrophic day on many many levels.  Those were both man made events perpetrated by those whose clear aim was to destroy the buildings, kill many people, severely disrupt the American economy and terrorize it’s citizens.  

But, other man made disasters don’t have to be deliberate.  They can come about do to negligence or just plain stupidity.  There is no way that the Buffalo Mining Company purposely courted disaster.  Even the most cynical opponent to corporate America would agree the financial cost to the company would make such an assertion foolish.  But, it can be said that they were neglegent on safety issues, perhaps in an effort to control costs.  And there is no question that negligence was foolish from a financial perspective, a human perspective and from the viewpoint of a Patriot.   On This Date in 1972 a cascade of water funnelled down Buffalo Creek in Logan County, West Virginia. 4000 homes and buildings in 17 towns were washed away and at least 118 people lost their lives. Marshall Univeristy has a “virtual museum” dedicated to the event. The culprit was a rather ironic foe. The irony lay in that the killer was also the lifeline to many of those who died. (Photo Gallery-Huntington Herald-Dispatch)  

Debris Piled Up on Bridge

The Buffalo Mining Company was one of a number of companies exploiting West Virginia’s greatest natural asset (aside from its beauty) which is coal. Much of the state’s wealth and economy is based on coal. But a problem with coal mining is what to do with the wastes. If you put them on a mountain, you get landslides and if you put them in a valley, you spoil the creek or river. The great idea of the Buffalo group was to build a dam. Actually, it was a series of three dams. Because of the type of dam they were, they weren’t really regulated much. There really wasn’t much of an engineering study done or anything. The waste from coal mining is inherently unstable and makes for a lousy dam. The first dam gave way, putting pressure on the second dam which failed and the huge amount of water spilling down caused the main dam to collapse. 

buffcreek1When you look at the steep terrain of West Virginia, it makes you wonder, “what were they thinking?” It’s one of those things in which it seems so obvious that using unstable material in such an area that a three-year-old could figure it out that it wouldn’t work. To say that its an example of corporate greed is probably a bit over-the-top as I’m sure those with the company didn’t want that to happen. Even if you have cynical view of the corporation, from their fiscal standpoint, it cost them a huge amount of money. However, the company was a subsidiary of the Pittston Mining Company and that company had a history of shabby safety practices. So, it would be fair to say that it appears that the company’s saving money on safety issues was the root cause of the disaster. But, given what it cost them from lawsuits, lost revenues, fines and other costs it seems that a greedy fellow would have prevented that from happening in order that they may keep more of their money. The result was from short sighted, stupid business practices and its a shame that we have to have government watch dogs to force some businesses to do what is not only smart from a corporate standpoint, but the right thing to do from a human perspective and for a business that relies on the efforts of their fellow citizens of the United States of America for their success. 

NAM In Mid to Upper 30's by 1 PM Sunday

 
GFS Critical Thickness Lines SW of Louisville Sun 1 PM and moving Northeast

Weather Bottom Line

Okay, I get it now, but I’m not sure that I’m buyin’ it.   The models were in a bit of flux but now I’m seeing some consistency and support for the idea of warmer temperatures for the weekend; particularly Sunday.  Not warm, mind you, but something closer to seasonal.  Then we get colder again.  But, I wouldn’t hold your breath.  Yes, the data has some consistency but it’s not making sense.  We’ll see.  I do think though that it’s a certainty that a big old storm should  come up out of the Gulf early in the week.  Snow White and my friend at Apple Hill Farm in the Mountains of North Carolina may get dumped on with snow on Tuesday and Wednesday.    She’s had a very large amount of snow this year.  But, the alpacas are just fine…they’re from the mountains of South America.   The trend has been for the storm to track a bit farther west and if this trend continues and it does track farther west than is progged now, then we may see another round of snow.  But, again, we’ll see.

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