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Ash Cloud from Iceland's Eruption Sweeping Across Europe: Are the Planet's Volcanoes Being Triggered by Global Warming?

3306ert1 Much of the focus on global warming is always directed towards the obvious; food, water levels, potential social strife. What makes the whole subject even more interesting though is the unexpected consequences of a warming planet. And if new research is to be believed, global warming may have an impact on volcanic eruptions.

A vast cloud of volcanic ash is sweeping across northern Europe today, throwing the continent into a state of chaos as hundreds of flights are canceled due to the pulverized rock and glass from the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano. 

Volcanic ash consists of small tephra, which are bits of pulverized rock and glass created by volcanic eruptions, less than 2 millimetres (0.079 in) in diameter. At the moment the ash cloud is reported to be at an altitude of around 20,000 feet and because of the destructive nature of the particles, which can stop engines running and seriously scratch windows on planes, most flights are forced to avoid coming into contact with these clouds.

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano is located in a glacier. Last month was the first eruption in 200 years for the volcano, but this past Tuesday saw a second eruption from underneath a 200m thick piece of glacier—literally fire and ice. As the lava melted the glacier, the ice turned to water, resulting in rivers surrounding the area to rise by 3m and running the risk of flooding the nearby village, which had been evacuated by then.
The volcanic ash, while not visible from the ground, can not only prove difficulties for visibility when flying, but can also get into the engine and electrical system of planes.

Is this a sign of more intense volcanic activity to come? And why? According to Carolina Pagli of the University of Leeds, UK, and Freysteinn Sigmundsson of the University of Iceland, Vatnajökull – the largest ice cap in Iceland – is disappearing at a rate of 5 cubic kilometers per year. Together, the two have calculated the effects that this will have on the crust and magma underneath.

Naturally, when ice disappears, the added weight it forced upon the crust below it disappears as well. As a result, according to Pagli and Sigmundsson, this is increasing the rate at which the rocks under the ice sheet melt in to magma. The melt to magma rate was found to be 0.014 km3/yr, which equated to a century average of 1.4 cubic kilometres produced since 1890; a 10% increase on the background rate.

(I spoke to Carolina Pagli via email, and she said that “One should be careful with the wording, because it’s the ice melting that causes decompression at depth and thus the mantle melting.” So the stats above refer to the rate of magma production, not ice melting.)

Iceland is home to several active volcanoes that exist underneath the ice, including Gjàlp, home of the last big eruption in 1996, and 58 years earlier in 1938. But according to Pagli and Sigmundsson the extra magma produced over the past century and more could reduce that time down to a gap of 30 years between each eruption.

Vatnajökull is somewhat unique in terms of its location, and is not necessarily an indicator for the rest of the world. Vatnajökull sits atop a boundary between tectonic plates, and as a result allows the release in pressure to have a much greater effect deep within the mantle.

But the thinning of ice over volcanic areas will have another effect, one which is more widespread. As the amount of weight on top of the crust diminishes – or at the very least changes – subsequent geological stresses will also change and increase the chance of eruptions. "Under the ice's weight, the crust bends and as you melt the ice the crust will bounce up again," explains Bill McGuire of University College London in the UK, who was not involved in the study.

Pagli points to Antarctica's Mount Erebus, the Aleutian Islands and other Alaskan volcanoes as locations which will be at risk of similar increased volcanic activity. She adds that the shifting stresses could even cause eruptions in unexpected places. "We think that during the Gjàlp eruption, magma reached the surface at an unusual location, mid-way between two volcanoes, because of these stress changes," says Pagli.

McGuire, who was speaking to New Scientist regarding the new research, added that "It's not just unloading the crust that triggers volcanic activity but loading as well." He and his team believe that rising sea-levels – also caused by melting ice caps – will increase volcanic activity. "We are going to see a massive increase in volcanic activity globally," he told New Scientist. "If we look back at previous warm periods that is what happened."

Posted by Casey Kazan with Josh Hill

Comments

This is nonsense. Stop blaming everything on "global warming". Even more when it is still not proven.

Are you more comforted to infer that we ( mankind) have to have a hand in everything that happens to the planet?

Everything that happens to the planet is a reflection of what is happening in the inner universe (heart, mind & soul) of humankind. "As above - so below..."

You people that write this are without a doubt completely ignorant of the most basic earth sciences.
Without basic knowledge all we see here is "Everything is global warming this and that".

Do you have any clue at all to what lies under the 6 inches of sand you plant your heads in on this planet?

I'm shocked at the ignorant comments above. But I know its human nature to ignore catastrophies. Why do glaciers disappear? Because they get colder? Humans don't want to take responsibility for the damage they do to our planet. They also don't want to reduce their gluttonous consumption. The ones that don't want to admit that the seasons are getting warmer are the ones with their head in the sand. Thats because its cooler underground!

With all this volcanic activity happening in this area, what is to say that the build up of magma hasn't heated the ground to get this glacier to melt at a rapid rate? Global warming, or is this part of the globe warming because of friction and tectonic plate movement?

Gee Pete, so soon!

Thank you for proving my point.

I'm not denying global warming, what I do deny is the koolaid you tweekers have been drinking.
But you should really get a basic understanding of earth science before you jump on a band wagon without any wheels.

Yes this makes sense. Thank you very much for facing the angry crowd and posting this piece. I guess when it's 120 degrees in Manhattan, then a few more people will take this topic seriously.

Of course global warming causes volcanoes! Global warming also left some dirty socks on my coffee table, and it didn’t put the top back on the toothpaste, and it forgot to put the toilet seat down. Global warming is responsible for the recession, male pattern baldness, old age, the Large Hadron Collider, Diet Pepsi, Microsoft Vista, George Bush, the North Pole, the South Pole, the Internet, Mars, and the Democrat party. In the Beginning there was Global Warming. Global Warming is Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Long Live Friggin’ Global Warming!!!

It is not god damn global warming!!!! I bet that fireball that fell from the sky was caused by global warming!11!!! Nibiru comes forth and show your mercy! >_<

Jesus Christ - what utter rubbish!!!

Global warming and global cooling are two proven facts. They've been occurring since day 1 4.5 billion years ago. Whether or not we help/hinder it.. ehh, who knows. However, I am curious about one aspect of this. "global warming" melted the ice sheet. the release of pressure stirs up volcanic activity, volcanic activity spews tons of smoke and dust into the atmosphere, this causes a decline in solar energy absorption, this decreases temperatures,... See where I'm going with this?? Not proven, but an interesting scenario.

Soul's post is the only one that merits any thought. Our apathy towards life is a reflection of the apathy we feel for ourselves and others. Bravo Soul.

Clearly the Image Depicts the Smoke Horns of the Volcano Monster as it Blasts Something to Oblivion Behind the Ridge, and the Lava Monster Getting the Hell Out Of There!

Global warming causes volcanoes.? Volcanoes have been know to cause some severe global cooling, this is fact. Then, to some extent; assuming that global warming causes an increase in volcanic activity,, it is self regulating. Cool! So what is up with modern man and all of his hate? All we really need is another volcano with a VEI of 8 or more, and then there will be no more hating cry-babies. No more nationalism, liberalism, no more phones to call home and big guns will rule. It will be like in the days of Daniel Boone.

global warming is caused by CO2, right? so, Mars has 75% CO2 in its atmosphere, so why isn't Mars boiling?? (Earths atmosphere has 0.0038% CO2 in its atmosphere, less than 1%!)

Planetary dynamics dictates that a celestial body with a molten core expands with cooling. That cooling is slowed with a crust that is an insulating factor. Dynamically the crust will incur deformation with tidal changes as well. For millennia the earth has expanded ever so slightly and continuously.

how natures can slow mans wisdom

This is a load of crap. Global warming is a hoax. I normally love Daily Galaxy but this is bad!! All of the planets in our solar system are warming, it's a natural cycle people!

http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/globalwarming.html

Nothing to see here move along

Thanks pikestaff, your comment completely brought up my day.

Unsubstantiated speculation like this piece only serves to feed the global warming deniers. Human caused global warming is real and will have a lot of real consequences. If someone actually comes up with any evidence that it might cause volcanic eruptions, then I will take it seriously, but this article is basically crap.

At no point did the article say man made global warming, did you guys just read the headline and start spewing your idiocy? The article provides the evidence to suggest that warming of the planet increases Volcanic activity, whether the warming is caused by people or not is irrelevent. The last paragraph itself explains that this sort of increase has been seen before in previous warm periods.

Also Mars is one, further away from the sun, and two, it's atmosphere isn't even 1% as dense as ours, it can't retain heat.

OhNoNotAgain so you're saying we should believe you and not vulcanologists? Sorry but I have to go with the actual scientists on this one.

Joe, may want to reconsider your source when quoting articles. An anti-government paranoia conspiracy site isn't that credible.

Here we see the problem clearly. It is denial. People are not going to be really well informed on this topic until their feet are on fire, and then it will be too late. On Easter Island, there used to be lots of trees, but the people there cut them down to build huts. After the last one was cut down, they had to live in caves by the sea. They could not restrain themselves. The same will happen with earth. Many will simply never care that what they themselves are doing is harming themselves and the rest of us. In my opinion, the solution to this problem is going to be extremely unpleasant.

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