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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ash By Any Other Name Would NOT Smell As Sulphurous

The Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland must surely count as one of the most unpronounceable volcano names in the world.

Nonetheless, the effects of its latest eruption can be easily communicated.

Check out this satellite photo by NASA:

Iceland is outlined on the upper left of the photo, spewing what looks like atmospheric diarrhoea towards northern Europe on the lower right.

Volcanic ash clouds gradually spread over Europe causing numerous cancelled airline flights in... SINGAPORE?!??

That's right.

About 6,000 travellers at the Changi Airport have been affected by flight disruptions in Europe, many of them stranded at the transit lounges due to insufficient hotel rooms.

According to the Straits Times, about one in two travellers at Changi are transiting through Singapore to destinations in Europe or North America.

Also in that news report - an affected traveller Mr. Ken Jones said: "I am resigned to what is happening. It is nobody's fault, I guess, but of course I am annoyed and frustrated."

Understandably he is annoyed, but Mr. Jones may also add "relieved" to his mixture of emotions if he only knew what happens when a jet aeroplane flies through a plume of volcanic ash at 900 klicks an hour.

On the 24th of June 1982, passengers and crew of British Airways Flight 9 had the terrifying experience of just how that feels like:

Ah, the imprecision of the English language - volcanic "ash" sounds harmless enough, but it is not the same sort of "ash" that you get from burning paper or cigarettes.

Volcanic "ash" is actually made up of tiny, irregular pieces of rock and glass.

Oh my.

Would you like to know more?

More satellite photos of the Icelandic eruption:
- NASA Observes Ash Plume of Icelandic Volcano (NASA)

News of passengers stuck in Singapore:
- Stranded in Singapore (Straits Times)

Full video of the British Airways Flight 9 incident:
- Air Crash Investigation - British Airways Flight 9 (Google videos)

Another imprecision of the English language:
- Seven Years Of Science (Fresh Brainz)


angry doc said...


Lim Leng Hiong said...

Yikes! I hope not...

angry doc said...

Just to be safe I'm not eating anything that comes from Iceland for the next few weeks... no more ice cream for me!