Words on Weather & Climate — April 29, 2010

What’s the name of that volcano?


I imagine the people from Iceland have been driven to fits of hysterical laughter when they hear broadcasters trying to pronounce the name the volcano that has been erupting in their country. It is spelled “Eyjafjallajoekull.” You can hear someone from Iceland pronounce it on a video from YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jq-sMZtSww. It certainly made me laugh. The English pronunciation is “Aye-ya fyah-dla jow-kudl.” Let’s just call it “that Icelandic volcano.”

You can see absolutely stunning photos online at www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/04/more_from_eyjafjallajokull.html. If you don’t own a computer, go to the library or visit a friend who has one and look at the pictures. It is worth your while.

I’m sure all of the stranded passengers and the airline companies didn’t find the volcano a laughing matter, but it came as no surprise to me to find out there are people blaming the volcano on global warming. Scientific American recently ran an article claiming that climate change caused the volcano to erupt. (Can you hear me laughing hysterically in the background?)

I am certainly not a geologist or volcanologist, but there is enough evidence to show that volcanoes don’t erupt due to climate change, but they can change the climate. The eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 caused the year without a summer in 1816. It has been hypothesized by a volcanologist at Los Alamos that the Dark Ages were triggered by agricultural collapse following the 535AD eruption of Krakatoa. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa lowered global temperatures about two degrees. The eruptions of El Chicon in 1983 and Mt. Pinotubo in 1991 also lowered global temperatures. I could go on and on.

A geologist writing in a blog called WattsUpWithThat, explained why melting ice had no effect on the Icelandic volcano: “Iceland is an above sea level manifestation of the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The ridge is of course an active constructive margin (It is actually the principle prime-mover of continental drift at this point in time). Upwelling of hotter (i.e. less dense) magma along the ridge is pushing the Eurasian plate and North American plate in opposite directions at about the speed that human nails grow. The Eurasian plate heads east, the North American plate heads west.

“So Iceland has about 200 meters of ice lying in a glacier across this active margin. Assuming plastic deformation, then this ice behaves like a fluid and exerts a hydrostatic head of pressure on the rock beneath. In other parts of the world, in the past, glacial ice has exerted sufficient pressure to warp the crust. The ice mass required for crustal warping is in kilometers rather than meters of depth.

“However, in this case, the insignificant weight and pressure of the ice is nowhere near enough to reduce, mitigate or hold back the massive pressure of the upwelling magma—which is sufficient to drive two massive continental plates in opposite directions.

“A simple test: If the Atlantic ridge can operate and create new crust at depths of 3,000 meters of water, how can 200 meters of ice stop magma at the surface of the planet?

“This is just so silly it is barking mad and frankly it is a good example of the magical thinking prevalent in post-modern science and education.

“The person suggesting this could either be a Fool (magical thinking) or a Knave (hunting for more research grants).

“But what really amazes is that a supposedly educated scientist fails to grasp that a globally significant eruptive continental margin cannot be stopped by any known human agent or started by human agency in the form of melting ice.

“If the ice is melting, I should imagine that the very high geothermal gradient and proximity to magma at 1,300 deg C might, just might, have something to do with it.”

The number of things now blamed on global warming doesn’t just include the eruption of volcanoes. You can find a list of over 700 things supposedly brought about by global warming at this site: whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/globalwarming2.html.

Here are my top 20 from that list:

1. beer shortage (oh dear)

2. birds confused (they’re not the only ones)

3. brains shrink (due to a lack of beer?)

4. brothels struggle (no comment)

5. cannibalism (yikes!)

6. circumcision in decline (no comment)

7. cold spells (from warming?)

8. crocodile sex (I don’t want to know)

9. early marriages (where are those brothels?)

10. Earth to explode (now that’s change you can count on)

11. fish get lost (where is Nemo?)

12. football team migration (will the Lions go to Sault St. Marie?)

13. great tits cope well (they ARE talking about birds)

14. lawyers’ income increased (now there’s a surprise)

15. mammoth dung melt (yuck)

16. Masters golf tournament wrecked (Tiger didn’t play that poorly)

17. NFL threatened (maybe the Lions should go to Canada. please)

18. rooftop bars (because of the beer shortage?)

19. teenage drinking (now I’ve heard every excuse)

20. sexual promiscuity (it’s all because of those struggling brothels)

The world has no shortage of both fools and knaves. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Craig James has been retired since July 1, 2008, after 40 years of broadcasting television weather. He was chief meteorologist at WZZM-TV for 12 years and chief meteorologist at WOOD-TV for 24 years. He is a graduate of Penn State University, where he received a Centennial Fellowship Award. He was also honored as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

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