Wednesday, 21 April 2010

You ain't seen (or heard) nothing yet

Eyjafjallajoekull is a name to conjure with. It’s a name I like. Katla is also a nice name. Warm. Friendly.

These are the names of two of Iceland’s largest volcanoes and it is the smaller of the two, Eyjafjallajoekull, which is currently causing a lot of trouble all over Europe. But it is as nothing compared to the trouble that will happen when Katla blows its top, which it usually does when the warm-up act of Eyjafjallajoekull finishes. When that happens, we will all need to take to our cellars, stock up on rats and start licking the condensation off pipes to slake our raging thirst. Katla will be disruptive in a permanent and thoroughly effective way. It won’t toy with you like Eyjafjallajoekull.

It will start with a huge explosion below the glacier that sits on top of the volcano. This explosion will be loud, if ‘loud’ is a strong enough word. Possibly the loudest sound ever heard on earth was emitted by Krakatoa in 1883. It was certainly much louder than the loudest nuclear explosion, and was heard 3,000 miles away, with people up to 200 miles distant being struck instantly deaf. There is, therefore, a fair chance that we will get to hear Katla above the roar of party political broadcasts. The crater will crack open, the glacier will fall into the billions of tons of lava and a crazy mixture of lava, ice, steam, ash, gas and molten rock will pour out down towards the sea and up towards the stratosphere. This will cause trouble. Billions of cubic tons of lava will make the sea boil, surge and swell across the North Atlantic. Billions of cubic tons of ash, molten rock and quintillions of tons of volcanic gases will make a sizeable mess of the landscape, seascape and skyscape. Nothing will fly over Europe. Not even birds. Insects? Forget it. We will be gassed in our cellars to which we will have retreated after the opening salvo. Over the next few months, we will be buried under about 100 metres of volcanic ash.

We have one chance. Wind direction. Although the prevailing winds will probably take it to us, now and again, the circulation of winds will head everything West, that is, towards the US and Canada. Obviously if the eruption happens while the winds are westerly that would be fine. We’d be laughing. Until you remember that there’s always Etna, Vesuvius and Stromboli to our East.

Next week:
Earthquakes in New Malden +++Security against roaming gangs of looters +++How to panic-buy landmines.

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