Tag Archives: Iceland

Volcanic fizz could end warming climate

EMBARGOED UNTIL 2300 GMT SATURDAY 6 APRIL The Icelandic volcanio that erupted in 2010 grounded aircraft over a wide area and gave a severe jolt to many people in Europe and North America. But it was small beer compared with what could lie in store, researchers say. LONDON, 7 April – While world leaders dither on taking action about climate change, volcanologists have found that if we are unlucky enough a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland might solve the problem for us by blotting out the Sun. The eruption in Iceland in 2010 of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which caused 100,000 flights to be cancelled and stranded millions of people, was small-scale compared with what could happen (see our story of 21 March, Volcano “did little to lower CO2”.) Not only could Iceland’s eruptions be up to 100 times more powerful, they could shower vast quantities of dust into the atmosphere, not just disrupting air flights but cutting out sunlight. Previous archaeological work on peat bogs and lake beds across Europe has found layers of volcanic ash. The dates of these layers coincide with population crashes in various places, including Scotland. It seems that the lack of sunshine associated with the falls of ash caused crop failures and famine across large swathes of Europe. If blasted high enough, fine ash and volcanic aerosols can take two years to fall out of the atmosphere. A team from the UK’s Open and Lancaster Universities has discovered a “fizzy” magma in Iceland, which increases the likelihood of disruptive ash clouds from future eruptions (magma is molten or partly-molten subterranean rock which is ejected from the Earth as lava.) Published in the journal Geology, the team’s research showed that many of the largest explosive eruptions in Iceland involve a viscous, high-silica magma called rhyolite, and are driven by volcanic gases (mostly water vapour and carbon dioxide). It is these gases that give a volcanic eruption its fizz. At depth they are dissolved within the magma, but as it rises towards the surface during an eruption the gases expand dramatically, causing the magma to froth and accelerate upwards as foam. The viscous rhyolite foam breaks down into tiny ash fragments, which form vast clouds.

Peril far greater

  Drs Jacqui Owen and Hugh Tuffen (Lancaster University) and Dave McGarvie (the Open University) analysed pumice and lava from an eruption at Iceland’s Torfajökull volcano some seventy thousand years ago. Within these samples they found tiny pockets of magma, called melt inclusions, which trapped the original gas. By measuring the gas trapped in the magna they could determine its fizziness. The surprise was just how fizzy this magma was, comparable with the highly explosive volcanoes of the Pacific rim. It means that the Icelandic volcanoes are much more dangerous to life on the planet than was previously thought. Dr Dave McGarvie, senior lecturer, Volcano Dynamics Group at the Open University, said: “We know that large explosive eruptions have occurred at infamous volcanoes such as Hekla and Katla, but it is important also to appreciate that large explosive eruptions are also produced by less well-known Icelandic volcanoes such as Torfajökull and Öraefajökull.” Dr Tuffen, Royal Society University Research Fellow at Lancaster University, said: “The discovery is rather worrying, as it shows that Icelandic volcanoes have the potential to be even more explosive than anticipated. “Added to this is the view of several eminent scientists that Iceland is entering a period of increased volcanic activity. Iceland’s position close to mainland Europe and the north Atlantic flight corridors means air travel could be affected again.” – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED UNTIL 2300 GMT SATURDAY 6 APRIL The Icelandic volcanio that erupted in 2010 grounded aircraft over a wide area and gave a severe jolt to many people in Europe and North America. But it was small beer compared with what could lie in store, researchers say. LONDON, 7 April – While world leaders dither on taking action about climate change, volcanologists have found that if we are unlucky enough a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland might solve the problem for us by blotting out the Sun. The eruption in Iceland in 2010 of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which caused 100,000 flights to be cancelled and stranded millions of people, was small-scale compared with what could happen (see our story of 21 March, Volcano “did little to lower CO2”.) Not only could Iceland’s eruptions be up to 100 times more powerful, they could shower vast quantities of dust into the atmosphere, not just disrupting air flights but cutting out sunlight. Previous archaeological work on peat bogs and lake beds across Europe has found layers of volcanic ash. The dates of these layers coincide with population crashes in various places, including Scotland. It seems that the lack of sunshine associated with the falls of ash caused crop failures and famine across large swathes of Europe. If blasted high enough, fine ash and volcanic aerosols can take two years to fall out of the atmosphere. A team from the UK’s Open and Lancaster Universities has discovered a “fizzy” magma in Iceland, which increases the likelihood of disruptive ash clouds from future eruptions (magma is molten or partly-molten subterranean rock which is ejected from the Earth as lava.) Published in the journal Geology, the team’s research showed that many of the largest explosive eruptions in Iceland involve a viscous, high-silica magma called rhyolite, and are driven by volcanic gases (mostly water vapour and carbon dioxide). It is these gases that give a volcanic eruption its fizz. At depth they are dissolved within the magma, but as it rises towards the surface during an eruption the gases expand dramatically, causing the magma to froth and accelerate upwards as foam. The viscous rhyolite foam breaks down into tiny ash fragments, which form vast clouds.

Peril far greater

  Drs Jacqui Owen and Hugh Tuffen (Lancaster University) and Dave McGarvie (the Open University) analysed pumice and lava from an eruption at Iceland’s Torfajökull volcano some seventy thousand years ago. Within these samples they found tiny pockets of magma, called melt inclusions, which trapped the original gas. By measuring the gas trapped in the magna they could determine its fizziness. The surprise was just how fizzy this magma was, comparable with the highly explosive volcanoes of the Pacific rim. It means that the Icelandic volcanoes are much more dangerous to life on the planet than was previously thought. Dr Dave McGarvie, senior lecturer, Volcano Dynamics Group at the Open University, said: “We know that large explosive eruptions have occurred at infamous volcanoes such as Hekla and Katla, but it is important also to appreciate that large explosive eruptions are also produced by less well-known Icelandic volcanoes such as Torfajökull and Öraefajökull.” Dr Tuffen, Royal Society University Research Fellow at Lancaster University, said: “The discovery is rather worrying, as it shows that Icelandic volcanoes have the potential to be even more explosive than anticipated. “Added to this is the view of several eminent scientists that Iceland is entering a period of increased volcanic activity. Iceland’s position close to mainland Europe and the north Atlantic flight corridors means air travel could be affected again.” – Climate News Network

Volcano 'did little to lower CO2'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The eruption almost three years ago of an Icelandic volcano added iron to the seas south of the island. But it disappointed hopes that it would help a natural process to remove much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

LONDON, 21 March – Plankton, tiny marine organisms, are a good way of cleansing the atmosphere of one of the main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide. To do this they need dissolved iron to help them to grow, and if they lack iron then they cannot do much to reduce CO2 levels.

So the eruption in 2010 of an Icelandic volcano gave scientists a perfect opportunity to see how much the cataclysm helped the plankton by showering them with unexpected clouds of iron.

Their verdict, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters – the volcano certainly helped, but not for long enough to make much difference.

This is a blow to some supporters of geo-engineering, who have suggested that one way to tackle climate change is large-scale seeding of the oceans with iron to stimulate plankton to absorb more carbon dioxide (see our 14 March story, Who will regulate the researchers?).

The volcano’s impact was assessed by a team led by scientists from the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, who were on a shipboard research expedition in the area at the time.

When it erupted in April 2010 the volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, hurled clouds of ash several kilometres into the atmosphere, bringing air travel to a standstill across Europe and, in a less noticeable effect, seeding the seas south of Iceland with ash.

In many parts of the ocean the productivity of phytoplankton – microscopic plants at the base of the marine food chain – is limited by the availability of dissolved iron.

In 2007 the team had shown that, after a large spring bloom, phytoplankton in the Iceland Basin failed to grow much because it lacked iron. The scientists wanted to see whether the ash from Eyjafjallajökull supplied enough iron to sustain the spring blooms for longer than usual.

More iron, less nitrogen

 

The team – from Southampton, the University of Cape Town and the Norwegian Institute for Air Research – conducted three research voyages in 2010 investigating ocean productivity in the area affected by ash from Eyjafjallajökull.

They took samples of ash and dust in the atmosphere, and of nutrients in the ocean, and also measured the activity of the phytoplankton.

The chief scientist for the summer research cruise and lead author of the Geophysical Research Letters paper, Professor Eric Achterberg, said: “The high latitude North Atlantic ocean is a globally important ocean region, as it is a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide, and an area where deep water formation takes place.

“A limit to the availability of iron in this region means that the ocean is less efficient in its uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

The team found that the five-week eruption supplied dissolved iron to a region of the North Atlantic of up 570,000 square kilometres, increasing the number of phytoplankton cells.

Biological experiments showed that the ash did release the iron which the phytoplankton needed to stimulate their growth. But the effect was short-lived as the extra iron resulted in the rapid removal of biological nitrate, depriving the phytoplankton of the nitrogen which they also needed, a caveat to proponents of this form of geo-engineering.

Professor Achterberg said: “The additional removal of carbon by the ash-stimulated phytoplankton was therefore only 15 to 20% higher than in other years, making for a significant but short-lived change to the biogeochemistry of the Iceland Basin.”

The National Oceanography Centre develops technology for coastal and deep ocean research. It is based in Southampton and Liverpool. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The eruption almost three years ago of an Icelandic volcano added iron to the seas south of the island. But it disappointed hopes that it would help a natural process to remove much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

LONDON, 21 March – Plankton, tiny marine organisms, are a good way of cleansing the atmosphere of one of the main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide. To do this they need dissolved iron to help them to grow, and if they lack iron then they cannot do much to reduce CO2 levels.

So the eruption in 2010 of an Icelandic volcano gave scientists a perfect opportunity to see how much the cataclysm helped the plankton by showering them with unexpected clouds of iron.

Their verdict, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters – the volcano certainly helped, but not for long enough to make much difference.

This is a blow to some supporters of geo-engineering, who have suggested that one way to tackle climate change is large-scale seeding of the oceans with iron to stimulate plankton to absorb more carbon dioxide (see our 14 March story, Who will regulate the researchers?).

The volcano’s impact was assessed by a team led by scientists from the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, who were on a shipboard research expedition in the area at the time.

When it erupted in April 2010 the volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, hurled clouds of ash several kilometres into the atmosphere, bringing air travel to a standstill across Europe and, in a less noticeable effect, seeding the seas south of Iceland with ash.

In many parts of the ocean the productivity of phytoplankton – microscopic plants at the base of the marine food chain – is limited by the availability of dissolved iron.

In 2007 the team had shown that, after a large spring bloom, phytoplankton in the Iceland Basin failed to grow much because it lacked iron. The scientists wanted to see whether the ash from Eyjafjallajökull supplied enough iron to sustain the spring blooms for longer than usual.

More iron, less nitrogen

 

The team – from Southampton, the University of Cape Town and the Norwegian Institute for Air Research – conducted three research voyages in 2010 investigating ocean productivity in the area affected by ash from Eyjafjallajökull.

They took samples of ash and dust in the atmosphere, and of nutrients in the ocean, and also measured the activity of the phytoplankton.

The chief scientist for the summer research cruise and lead author of the Geophysical Research Letters paper, Professor Eric Achterberg, said: “The high latitude North Atlantic ocean is a globally important ocean region, as it is a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide, and an area where deep water formation takes place.

“A limit to the availability of iron in this region means that the ocean is less efficient in its uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

The team found that the five-week eruption supplied dissolved iron to a region of the North Atlantic of up 570,000 square kilometres, increasing the number of phytoplankton cells.

Biological experiments showed that the ash did release the iron which the phytoplankton needed to stimulate their growth. But the effect was short-lived as the extra iron resulted in the rapid removal of biological nitrate, depriving the phytoplankton of the nitrogen which they also needed, a caveat to proponents of this form of geo-engineering.

Professor Achterberg said: “The additional removal of carbon by the ash-stimulated phytoplankton was therefore only 15 to 20% higher than in other years, making for a significant but short-lived change to the biogeochemistry of the Iceland Basin.”

The National Oceanography Centre develops technology for coastal and deep ocean research. It is based in Southampton and Liverpool. – Climate News Network

Volcano ‘did little to lower CO2’

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The eruption almost three years ago of an Icelandic volcano added iron to the seas south of the island. But it disappointed hopes that it would help a natural process to remove much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. LONDON, 21 March – Plankton, tiny marine organisms, are a good way of cleansing the atmosphere of one of the main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide. To do this they need dissolved iron to help them to grow, and if they lack iron then they cannot do much to reduce CO2 levels. So the eruption in 2010 of an Icelandic volcano gave scientists a perfect opportunity to see how much the cataclysm helped the plankton by showering them with unexpected clouds of iron. Their verdict, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters – the volcano certainly helped, but not for long enough to make much difference. This is a blow to some supporters of geo-engineering, who have suggested that one way to tackle climate change is large-scale seeding of the oceans with iron to stimulate plankton to absorb more carbon dioxide (see our 14 March story, Who will regulate the researchers?). The volcano’s impact was assessed by a team led by scientists from the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, who were on a shipboard research expedition in the area at the time. When it erupted in April 2010 the volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, hurled clouds of ash several kilometres into the atmosphere, bringing air travel to a standstill across Europe and, in a less noticeable effect, seeding the seas south of Iceland with ash. In many parts of the ocean the productivity of phytoplankton – microscopic plants at the base of the marine food chain – is limited by the availability of dissolved iron. In 2007 the team had shown that, after a large spring bloom, phytoplankton in the Iceland Basin failed to grow much because it lacked iron. The scientists wanted to see whether the ash from Eyjafjallajökull supplied enough iron to sustain the spring blooms for longer than usual.

More iron, less nitrogen

  The team – from Southampton, the University of Cape Town and the Norwegian Institute for Air Research – conducted three research voyages in 2010 investigating ocean productivity in the area affected by ash from Eyjafjallajökull. They took samples of ash and dust in the atmosphere, and of nutrients in the ocean, and also measured the activity of the phytoplankton. The chief scientist for the summer research cruise and lead author of the Geophysical Research Letters paper, Professor Eric Achterberg, said: “The high latitude North Atlantic ocean is a globally important ocean region, as it is a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide, and an area where deep water formation takes place. “A limit to the availability of iron in this region means that the ocean is less efficient in its uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide.” The team found that the five-week eruption supplied dissolved iron to a region of the North Atlantic of up 570,000 square kilometres, increasing the number of phytoplankton cells. Biological experiments showed that the ash did release the iron which the phytoplankton needed to stimulate their growth. But the effect was short-lived as the extra iron resulted in the rapid removal of biological nitrate, depriving the phytoplankton of the nitrogen which they also needed, a caveat to proponents of this form of geo-engineering. Professor Achterberg said: “The additional removal of carbon by the ash-stimulated phytoplankton was therefore only 15 to 20% higher than in other years, making for a significant but short-lived change to the biogeochemistry of the Iceland Basin.” The National Oceanography Centre develops technology for coastal and deep ocean research. It is based in Southampton and Liverpool. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The eruption almost three years ago of an Icelandic volcano added iron to the seas south of the island. But it disappointed hopes that it would help a natural process to remove much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. LONDON, 21 March – Plankton, tiny marine organisms, are a good way of cleansing the atmosphere of one of the main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide. To do this they need dissolved iron to help them to grow, and if they lack iron then they cannot do much to reduce CO2 levels. So the eruption in 2010 of an Icelandic volcano gave scientists a perfect opportunity to see how much the cataclysm helped the plankton by showering them with unexpected clouds of iron. Their verdict, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters – the volcano certainly helped, but not for long enough to make much difference. This is a blow to some supporters of geo-engineering, who have suggested that one way to tackle climate change is large-scale seeding of the oceans with iron to stimulate plankton to absorb more carbon dioxide (see our 14 March story, Who will regulate the researchers?). The volcano’s impact was assessed by a team led by scientists from the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, who were on a shipboard research expedition in the area at the time. When it erupted in April 2010 the volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, hurled clouds of ash several kilometres into the atmosphere, bringing air travel to a standstill across Europe and, in a less noticeable effect, seeding the seas south of Iceland with ash. In many parts of the ocean the productivity of phytoplankton – microscopic plants at the base of the marine food chain – is limited by the availability of dissolved iron. In 2007 the team had shown that, after a large spring bloom, phytoplankton in the Iceland Basin failed to grow much because it lacked iron. The scientists wanted to see whether the ash from Eyjafjallajökull supplied enough iron to sustain the spring blooms for longer than usual.

More iron, less nitrogen

  The team – from Southampton, the University of Cape Town and the Norwegian Institute for Air Research – conducted three research voyages in 2010 investigating ocean productivity in the area affected by ash from Eyjafjallajökull. They took samples of ash and dust in the atmosphere, and of nutrients in the ocean, and also measured the activity of the phytoplankton. The chief scientist for the summer research cruise and lead author of the Geophysical Research Letters paper, Professor Eric Achterberg, said: “The high latitude North Atlantic ocean is a globally important ocean region, as it is a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide, and an area where deep water formation takes place. “A limit to the availability of iron in this region means that the ocean is less efficient in its uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide.” The team found that the five-week eruption supplied dissolved iron to a region of the North Atlantic of up 570,000 square kilometres, increasing the number of phytoplankton cells. Biological experiments showed that the ash did release the iron which the phytoplankton needed to stimulate their growth. But the effect was short-lived as the extra iron resulted in the rapid removal of biological nitrate, depriving the phytoplankton of the nitrogen which they also needed, a caveat to proponents of this form of geo-engineering. Professor Achterberg said: “The additional removal of carbon by the ash-stimulated phytoplankton was therefore only 15 to 20% higher than in other years, making for a significant but short-lived change to the biogeochemistry of the Iceland Basin.” The National Oceanography Centre develops technology for coastal and deep ocean research. It is based in Southampton and Liverpool. – Climate News Network