Posts Tagged ‘volcanic ash’

Volcanic Ash in Europe

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I was at a dinner party this weekend with a bunch of doctors, and was therefore declared the local expert on volcanic ash and airplanes (David was sitting at another table with a friend from Bose – it was all acoustics, all the time).  In fact, I was deemed the local expert on anything more technical than iPods – pretty scary, actually, on a number of fronts.  But I digress.

So the cocktail chatter was all about the impact of the ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano on airplanes, and why the entire European airspace had to be shut down for so long.  For those of you interested in the topic, I’d recommend following James Fallows, who is covering this issue closely.

I also find very curious this graphic that suggests that CO2 released by the volcano is miniscule, in comparison with that normally produced by European aviation emissions – and in fact, that the savings by cancelled flights greatly outweighs the impact of the volcano.

David McCandless & Ben Bartels - Planes or Volcano

David McCandless & Ben Bartels - Planes or Volcano


And here’s a pretty cool picture of the sulfur dioxide plume produced by the eruption, from the NOAA website:

Sulfur Dioxide Plume from Iceland Volcano

Sulfur Dioxide Plume from Iceland Volcano

Let’s just hope the planes start flying soon.  As a generally reliable source reports, “The aviation press is starting to whine about the European authorities being too slow to open the airspace. Sounds like public posturing to me. If I was running an airline, I’d be very happy to keep my airplanes on the ground while blaming someone else for not flying. This is not a safety issue – this is an economic issue. The only time an aircraft has lost power due to a volcano (that I know of) was when they have been flown through the ash plume. But that’s just an extreme case – it’s the increased wear on engine components due to the ash that’s problem, not that the airplanes are going to fall out of the sky…”