Random thoughts on a variety of subjects
by Sam Redman
A New York Times headline reads, “Britain Closes Airspace as Volcanic Ash Spreads.” It’s quite a story. It seems that volcanic ash from an Icelandic volcano risks detroying airplane engines. The BBC reports that, “All flights in and out of the UK have been suspended as ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland moves south.” The safety body, Eurocontrol, said up to 4,000 flights across northern Europe would be cancelled. The British air traffic control service announced that no flights would be allowed in or out of UK airspace until further notice amid fears of engine damage.
This natural phenomenon shows the fragility of our global environment. Researchers (you can Google it) have published recent studies which show that “volcanoes played a pivotal role in a deadly ice age that occurred nearly half a billion years ago,” and resulted in mass extinction, because of ash in the atmosphere. Search also for an online photograph of the “layered volcanic ash beds” in the Nashville Dome area in central Tennessee. Those formed around 455 million years ago, evidently (according to many scientists), causing or contributing to the ice age.
Hopefully, the ash flow in Iceland is at its end, but if this continues, or worse, if other similar eruptions occur in other parts of the world, causing an ongoing ash flow, then we will be at the mercy of events totally beyond our control. This phenomenal event (actually halting air traffic in Britain) gives a glimpse of the chances, hopefully slim, but possible, of catastrophic conditions which could literally reverse our technologically dependent existence to stone age conditions.
This news sounds like the beginning of a science fiction disaster film. Hopefully, the ash release is over and no further disruptions occur, but it certainly caused me to consider how little control we would actually have over our environment if there would be any repeat of the volcanic activity of prehistoric times.
Reading this story is reminiscent of my experiences of being nine and reading Superman comics or as I grew older glancing at the headlines describing impending doom in the supermarket tabloids.
But, now seeing such a phenomenon described in the New York Times as actually happening; that’s chilling.