Icelandic volcano may cause slight warming in atmosphere

20:26, April 19, 2010      

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The Icelandic volcano might cause slight warming in the atmosphere, but not as strong as the Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines in 1991, said a Swedish climate expert.

The Pinatubo eruption was much stronger, throwing all the ashes up into the stratosphere (more than 10,000 meters up in the atmosphere), Fred Goldberg told Xinhua by email.

Goldberg, who specifically focuses his research on the relations between Pinatubo volcano and global warming, said the current volcano eruption in Iceland is not as strong and the ashes are therefore not thrown into the stratosphere, but remaining in the troposphere at 5,000 to10,000 meters.

The incoming sunlight will warm these ash particles, which in turn will warm the surrounding air and therefore may cause a slight warming of the atmosphere, said Goldberg.

He said the main cause of the volcano eruption is the fact that Iceland is located over two tectonic plates that are drifting apart.

The Earth crust is therefore thinning and the internal pressure will then blow through the crust and cause an eruption, he said.

"The scientists are finding more and more evidence that a releasing factor could be strong solar winds from the sun affecting the Earth's crust and thereby initiating a volcanic eruption. Just a few days before the Icelandic eruption, the sun began to have its strongest activity for years."

"The seismologists in Iceland can measure the pressure from the eruption and they have noted that the pressure is decreasing. That tells us that the volcano in a fairly short time will finish. But you can never be sure," Goldberg said.

"It might suddenly increase the pressure and continue. I predict that the eruption will subside in this week," Goldberg said.

He said the main impact has already been felt by the people living in the vicinity of the volcano.

"They may be hit by lava floods or have their farms and fields covered with ashes. Over time the ashes usually will form a good soil for farming," Goldberg said.

Other effects for people living further away is primarily the drifting ashes that may destroy airplane engines.

"When the glass particles are heated up inside a jet engine the glass will melt and can then stick to the turbine blades or other parts of the engine and make it stop. The ashes can also erode the front windows of the plane and the pilot will lose sight," the expert said.

The volcanic eruption in Iceland, which started Wednesday, has caused an air traffic chaos across Europe, shutting down airports and grounding hundreds of flights a day.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:王千原雪)

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