Tag: Volcanos

Yes, Lockdowns Were a Waste (And a Volcano Erupts)


A friend of mine is retired from the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA. He is still the world’s expert in predicting volcanic eruptions. His seminal work was published in Nature in 1996. He now says that he’s disappointed that Nature publishes so much that is not real science. As a result, I’m a bit reticent posting this. However, it seems to me very solid.

Lockdowns accomplished nothing in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Beauty from Ashes


“To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit
of despair.” — Isaiah 61:3

Seven years ago, a mountain in southern Iceland called Eyjafjallajökull erupted. This caused an enormous emission of smoke and ash that covered large areas of northern Europe. Consequently, the majority of European flights from April 14 to 20, 2010 were cancelled, creating the highest level of air travel disruption since the Second World War. Twenty countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic and it affected about 10 million travelers. By April 21, the eruption had ended. Since no further lava or ash was being produced, the crisis was declared over and flights returned to normal.

But life would never be normal again for the many homes and farms in the countryside around Eyjafjallajökull. The toxic ash had killed their livestock and crops and rendered their soil useless. Many families moved away, others sold all their holdings and changed their livelihoods. But a small, enterprising number of Icelanders stayed. Rather than curse the ashes that had obliterated their former lives, they took them and turned them into new sources of income. One of the most successful was soap.

Unknown Unknowns


640px-Caldera_Mt_Tambora_Sumbawa_IndonesiaIf you time-traveled back to the spring of 1815 and asked anyone in Europe — or, for that matter, much of the rest of the world — what world-historical event was going on that would affect their lives over the next few years, almost everyone would have offered the same answer: Napoleon’s escape from Elba and attempt to reconstruct the French Empire. Each and every one of them would have been wrong.

What they should have been concerned with were the eruptions of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia, the biggest of which occurred 200 years ago this week. Tambora was one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in recorded history; quite possibly, the biggest. The explosion knocked the top mile off of the volcano and threw about 100 cubic kilometers of material into the atmosphere, about 24 times more than Mt. Helens would in its famous 1980 eruption (even the Krakatoa eruption a few decades later would be an order of magnitude less than Tambora). Estimates vary wildly, but low-ball figures estimate that at least 10,000 people died as a direct result of the explosion.

But this wasn’t a mere local news story. Through a combination of the explosion’s size, the height of the ash plume, and their source near the Earth’s equator, the eruption affected the entire world’s climate for the next three years. Again, estimates vary, but it’s likely that an additional 50,000 people were killed by famines and crop failures as far away as the United States, and twice that number more may have died from the typhus and cholera epidemics that followed. Nighttime temperatures in New England plummeted below freezing at least once in June, July, and August of 1816. Food prices surged globally, tens of thousands of farmers and peasants were turned into refugees in China, and the government of Switzerland was nearly overthrown by riots.