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Sulphurous fallout
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Smelling Grímsvötn

While piloting a commercial transatlantic flight last year, Captain Klaus Sievers and his crew got a whiff of an unusual odour. In a confined space 10 km up in the air, there was only one thing it could be.
The foul smell with traces of sulphur came from none other than the Grímsvötn volcano that was spewing gas and ash from southeast Iceland. Sulphur dioxide often indicates volcanic ash, and the presence of ash in the atmosphere can endanger jet engines.
Timely information about ash, sulphur dioxide clouds and their dispersion are crucial to alert civil aviation authorities.
Earth-observing satellites can provide this information. With frequent and worldwide measurements of ash plumes and sulphur dioxide emissions, satellites help to improve aviation safety.

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LSU geologist's research reveals Earth's violent past

LSU associate professor Huiming Bao studies the volcanoes of millions of years ago by analysing today's rocks. In his paper, "Massive Volcanic SO2 Oxidation and Sulphate Aerosol Deposition in Cenozoic North America," Bao explains how a breakthrough understanding of a new type of stable isotope geochemical signature preserved in the rock record shows just how different eruptions were more than 20 million years ago.
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Ash from the Laki volcanic eruption in Iceland reached Le Havre in France on the 22nd June, 1783.

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The Laki volcano
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On 8 June 1783, The Laki volcano, in Iceland, opened a fissure  with 130 craters, and began an eight-month eruption which killed over 9,000 people and starts a seven-year famine.

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Laki
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laki1b.jpg
Expand (57kb, 800 x 600)

Latitude:    64° 4'7.11"N, Longitude:     18°14'12.51"W

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RE: Sulphurous fallout
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The volcano was called Laki, it erupted for eight dismal months without cease, ruined crops, lowered temperatures and drastically altered the weather. It killed 9,000 people, drenched the European forests in acid rain, caused skin lesions in children and the deaths of millions of cattle. And, by one account, it was a contributing factor (because of the hunger-inducing famines) to the outbreak six years later of the French revolution.
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Volcanic eruptions
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Volcanic eruptions have periodically cooled the tropics over at least the last 450 years by spewing out particles that girdle the world at high altitude and reflect sunlight, according to a study released Sunday.
The research adds a chunk of regional evidence to earlier work that found major eruptions -- such as Krakatoa, Indonesia in 1883 and Huaynaputina, Peru in 1600 -- contribute to cooling on a worldwide scale.
A trio of scientists led by Rosanne D'Arrigo of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, looked at ocean temperatures in a belt extending from 30 degrees south across the equator to 30 degrees north.
They compiled temperature records reaching back nearly half a millennium from three sources: ice cores, tree rings and coral reefs.
They found the longest sustained period of cooling of sea surfaces -- to a depth of one metre -- occurred in the early 1800s following the eruption of Mount Tambora on the Indonesia island of Sumbawa.

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RE: Sulphurous fallout
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Title: Global influence of the AD 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina, Peru
Authors: Shanaka L. de Silva1 and Gregory A. Zielinski2

It has long been established that gas and fine ash from large equatorial explosive eruptions can spread globally, and that the sulphuric acid that is consequently produced in the stratosphere can cause a small, but statistically significant, cooling of global temperatures. Central to revealing the ancient volcano–climate connection have been studies linking single eruptions to features of climate-proxy records such as found in ice-core and tree-ring chronologies. Such records also suggest that the known inventory of eruptions is incomplete, and that the climatic significance of unreported or poorly understood eruptions remains to be revealed. The AD 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina, in southern Peru, has been speculated to be one of the largest eruptions of the past 500 years; acidity spikes from Greenland and Antarctica ice, tree-ring chronologies, along with records of atmospheric perturbations in early seventeenth-century Europe and China, implicate an eruption of similar or greater magnitude than that of Krakatau in 1883. Here we use tephra deposits to estimate the volume of the AD 1600 Huaynaputina eruption, revealing that it was indeed one of the largest eruptions in historic times. The chemical characteristics of the glass from juvenile tephra allow a firm cause–effect link to be established with glass from the Antarctic ice, and thus improve on estimates of the stratospheric loading of the eruption.

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Laki volcanic event
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A little over 200 years ago, the eruption of a volcano in Iceland sent a huge toxic cloud across Western Europe. It was the greatest natural disaster to hit modern Britain, killing many thousands - but it has been almost forgotten by history.

"Such multitudes are indisposed by fevers in this country that farmers have difficulty gathering their harvest, the labourers having been almost every day carried out of the field incapable of work and many die."

So wrote Bedfordshire poet William Cooper in the summer of 1783.

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RE: Sulphurous fallout
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An environmental drama played out on the world stage in the late 18th century when a volcano killed 9,000 Icelanders and brought a famine to Egypt that reduced the population of the Nile valley by a sixth.
A study by three scientists from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and a collaborator from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, demonstrates a connection between these two widely separated events.
The investigators used a computer model developed by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies to trace atmospheric changes that followed the 1783 eruption of Laki in southern Iceland back to their point of origin. The study is the first to conclusively establish the linkage between high-latitude eruptions and the water supply in North Africa.

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