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Science, Maths & Technology

Ash and chaos: Join the debate

Updated Monday, 4th October 2010

How did last spring’s eruption in Iceland affect you: were you watching enthralled as events unfolded, or were you marooned without a flight far from home? To what extent should the world be prepared for comparatively rare natural events? Join the debate by adding your comments underneath Dr Rothery’s insight.

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Flights over much of Europe were grounded for six days in April, and again for a couple of days in May because of volcanic ash blown our way from an explosive eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. Students of the OU short course on volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, and readers of my book of the same name, were already well aware that high ash clouds are a danger to aircraft.

Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Klikk | Dreamstime

Image: Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland

There had been plenty of warning signs before Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption turned nasty in April, although the height of the ash cloud and the wind direction conspired to make the crisis much worse than anticipated. Bang Goes the Theory showed some time ago how it is very bad news if a jet engine begins to suck in volcanic ash, but why did this eruption cause so much chaos? Was airspace closed unnecessarily? Had the airline industry ‘buried its head in the sand’ and tried to pretend it would never happen? How often, and in what different ways, could a volcanic eruption somewhere in the world affect the environment or the economy in the British Isles?

We'd like to hear what you think - join the online debate by posting your comments below.

Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis (Teach Yourself General series)
by David Rothery, ISBN: 9781444103113, Teach Yourself (2010)





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