Icelandic Volcanic Ash Cloud Thing


I like to think we were early at Mental Crumble with the weather warning a few weeks ago because of volcanic activity in Iceland.

Now we're in a different ball game with more eruptions and a rather inconvenient cloud of volcanic dust in the jet stream. Well, inconvenient if you're attempting to fly that is with just about all airports closed. If I were flying I'd be pretty pleased, because the story of BA Flight 009 would be uppermost in my mind.

Somewhat surprisingly, there isn't much factual information around on the news wires or the web but don't worry - I'm here to help.

Whilst we don't yet know if we're all going to get a liberal coating of volcanic ash over our green and pleasant land, and although not wishing to alarm you, there are perhaps one or two worthy points to note at this early stage.

Iceland's Laki volcano erupted in 1783, freeing gases that turned into smog. The smog floated across the Jet Stream, changing weather patterns. Many died from gas poisoning in the British Isles. Crop production fell in western Europe. Famine spread. Some even linked the eruption, which helped fuel famine, to the French Revolution. Painters in the 18th century illustrated fiery sunsets in their works.

The winter of 1784 was also one of the longest and coldest on record in North America. New England reported a record stretch of below-zero temperatures and New Jersey reported record snow accumulation. The Mississippi River also reportedly froze in New Orleans.

"These are Hollywood-sort of scenarios but possible," said Colin Macpherson, a geologist with the University of Durham. "As the melt rises, it's a little like taking a cork out of a champagne bottle."

Thanks Colin.

Moving swiftly on from the 2012 scary thing let me point you in the direction of sensible advice should the thing escalate. You can find "Actions to take for Ash fall," here.

A guide to "The Health Hazards of Volcanic Ash," here, although it probably doesn't highlight jets losing power in all four engines which would be pretty much at the top of my health hazards list. And another preparedness pamphlet here.

The big question that men of a certain age in Haslemere will be asking this morning will be, "Well, is it good for the lawn?" I don't know the answer but somehow, I think I know what will be running through the mind of the matrons of Haslemere once the implications of an apocalyptic dust cloud floating South over the A3 sink in.

Expect a run on pulses, tinned asparagus and hoover bags at Tesco and don't get caught in the stampede once it starts - you won't stand a chance.