September 2014 – ICELAND – People on Norway’s coast have reported a strong smell of sulfur in the air this week, and experts say it’s coming from a surprising source: Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano, 800 miles away. Bardarbunga sits about seven miles under the Dyngjujökull glacier, which is more than 800 miles west, and across the Atlantic, from Norway. But as Vibeke Thyness at the Norwegian Medical Institute told Norway’s public broadcasting radio station, NRK, weather, along with a very active few weeks at the volcano, have likely combined to push the sulfur into Norway’s air space. “This is quite a large spill,” Thyness tells NRK. She explained that high pressure over Scotland, along with wind and only a little rain, has made it possible for the fumes to travel so far. While Thyness said the fumes themselves aren’t something that will endanger the public in Norway, the Iceland Review said residents in eastern Iceland have complained about sore throats, stinging eyes and headaches. The news agency said families were told to avoid being outside for long periods of time, particularly children and people with respiratory illnesses. Bjorn Saevar Einarsson, a meteorologist at the Icelandic Met Office, points to a satellite image that clearly shows how far the concentration of sulfur pollution has traveled.
Sara Barsotti, a volcanologist with the Icelandic Met Office, told the Wall Street Journal gas emissions at the eruption site have measured very high this week. Workers there are now required to wear gas masks as well as personal gas monitors. Volcanic activity at Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano has escalated since mid-August, as increasingly powerful earthquakes shake the region. The lava eruption first started Aug. 31. Impressive photos from NASA and the Earth Observatory show the lava footprint at the Holuhran lava field has also continued to grow. Scientists also noted several large new fissures had formed along the surface, as well as a telltale caldera. That caldera has been sinking beneath the surface as much as 3 feet a day. The airline industry has kept close watch on the situation because the volcano sits in a vital flight path from the United Kingdom to America. No one wants a replay of 2010 when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano erupted and sparked a week of international aviation chaos, canceling some 100,000 flights and closing European air space for five days. The current airline alert level remains at orange, as earthquakes continue to shake the region. –TWC
By Robert On September 13, 2014 ·
Laki killed an estimated 6 million people worldwide and ¼ of Iceland’s population.
“The current eruption may be very similar to one that occurred in Iceland during 1783-1784,” says reader Chris Beal.
I hope Chris is wrong, but here’s some info about Laki from Wikipedia and other sources.
Laki mountain itself did not erupt, but fissures opened up on each side, erupting over an eight-month period between 1783 and 1784. The eruption poured out an estimated 3.4 cubic miles (14 km3) of lava and clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulfur dioxide compounds that killed more than 50% of Iceland’s livestock, and lead to a famine that killed approximately 25% of the island’s human population.
Sulfur dioxide spewed into the Northern Hemisphere, causing a drop in global temperatures and the coldest winter in 250 years.. This caused crop failures in Europe and may even have caused droughts in India.
The eruption has been estimated to have killed more than six million people globally, making it the deadliest eruption in historical times.
It was the second greatest eruption of the last 1,000 years, behind only the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, says Stephen Self, visiting professor of volcanology at the Open University.
Consequences in Europe
The estimated 120,000,000 tons – 120 million tons! – of sulphur dioxide is about three times the total annual European industrial output in 2006, and equivalent to a 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption every three days.
While the Pinatubo eruption produced 17 tons of sulphur dioxide, Laki pumped out the same amount every three days at its peak, says Self. It belched more toxic gases than any eruption in the last 150 years.
A thick haze – known as the “Laki haze” – spread down through Norway, Germany, France and across to Britain, causing panic when farm laborers began dropping like flies. (The sulphur dioxide was mixing with water vapor in the lungs to choke victims.) More than 20,000 deaths are estimated in Britain alone during the summer of 1783.
Laki contributed significantly to several years of extreme weather in Europe, leading to an increase in poverty and famine that may have contributed to the French Revolution in 1789. Studies also suggest that there was an unusually strong El Niño effect from 1789 to 1793.
Consequences in North America
In North America, the winter of 1784 was the longest and one of the coldest ever recorded. It brought the longest period of below-zero temperatures in New England, the largest accumulation of snow in New Jersey, and the longest freezing over of the Chesapeake Bay, where Annapolis, Maryland is located A huge snowstorm hit the south, the Mississippi River froze at New Orleans and there was ice in the Gulf of Mexico.