Ban on commercial flights due to volcano eruption overcautious: leading expert (2)

22:11, April 19, 2010      

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In the Icelandic case, the ash has remained within the lowest 10 kilometers above the earth's surface. While that may be causing aviation havoc, from an environmental perspective it means there is less cause for concern.

Given precipitation at those levels, it is possible for the ash to all but disappear within a week to two. In order to see a real climactic effect, the volcano must continue producing the ash for an extended period and even then the areas affected will only be those reached by the airborne ash.

"Therefore there should be more limited cooling in the region around the site of the eruption. That could mean Europe or North America depending on which way the winds will blow -- Europe most likely -- and this effect will only be felt while the volcano is still erupting," Rosenfeld predicted.


From the point of view of air pollution, he argues that there is very little difference between the ash and the desert dust that affects many countries.

Indeed, as Rosenfeld was talking, the skies above his native Israel were turning a brownish-grey as north-easterly winds brought with them Sahara sands that they had picked up in North Africa.

Both desert sands and volcanic ash present health problems and in Israel, for example, the national radio stations broadcast warnings on particularly sandy days. Those with breathing problems, pregnant women and children are advised not to participate in strenuous exercise and it is recommended they remain indoors.

In the case of the Icelandic ash though, the effects are really only felt where it is at its densest.

A quick look at the EUMETSAT dust imagery shows vast tracts of the world covered in thick dust clouds. These show in a deep red on the animated maps. The dust and ash clouds created by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano are in far paler colors and dissipate far more quickly as the time lapse images show.

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