Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mighty Volcanoes on a Fragile planet

The news that has dominated the world over the weekend has been the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland. Travelers are stranded , businesses are impacted and the airlines are wringing their heads in despair. No one can predict how long this ash will continue to spill out into the European skies and literally bring all of Europe to a grinding halt. It makes one think how fragile our planet is where nature can without warning literally stop our civilized world. The ash which is pulverized rock a few mm in size is shot 5-8 kms vertically into the atmosphere when molten lava meets with sub zero temperatures of the glacial ice. The resulting steam which is due to such extremes in temperatures results in the ash being shot so high up into the sky. The higher it goes the wider will be its spread and the winds blowing eastwards have literally blanketed Europe and as far as Moscow. In the midst of all this is Poland trying to grapple with a national disaster of losing almost all its leadreship in one plane crash. A few years ago I recollect reading a policy where more than two national dignatories were prevented from travelling in the same aircraft. Today that policy makes a lot of sense in Poland. Imagine the logistic problems of having a national funeral without having the ability of air travel.

The last time I recollect nature reminded mankind of its awesome power and to a much more devastating degree was when the tsunami struck us the Indian ocean on Christmas eve in 2004.

As we follow the daily news I hear that KLM has flown a passengerless airplane through the ash and landed safely. I wonder will the airlines take on the responsibility of flying a plane load of passengers through the looming ash cloud based on this test or will they chicken out-- more importantly will you buy a ticket on such a flight even if the airlines said it was business as usual but is Eyjafjallajokull listening-- from what I last heard it was business as usual at Eyjafjallajokull as well.

BTW have you guys heard of George Kourounis of "Angry Planet" fame. He is the guy who goes chasing natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions. Next week he is going to be in Iceland and taking "calculated risks" to get as near as possible to the lip of Eyjafjallajokull to give us pictures of what goes on in the belly of the volcano-- I personally doubt it will be possible on an active volcano but Mr Kourounis has "been there done that" -- I am sure he knows what he is talking about.

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