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Some recent volcano-related articles 20 December 2007

Posted by admin in Alaska, Iceland, Indonesia, Laki, Novarupta, volcano culture, volcanology.

Some interesting recent open-access articles of volcanological interest: National Geographic Magazine looks at the place of volcanoes in Indonesian culture, The Economist explores the climate effects of the Laki eruption of 1783, and Geology.com has an account of the 1912 Novarupta eruption.

Volcano CultureNational Geographic Magazine (January 2008)
‘On a less earthly plane, volcanoes stand at the heart of a complicated set of mystical beliefs that grip millions of Indonesians and influence events in unexpected ways. Their peaks attract holy men and pilgrims. Their eruptions augur political change and social upheaval. You might say that in Indonesia, volcanoes are a cultural cauldron in which mysticism, modern life, Islam, and other religions mix—or don’t. Indonesia, an assemblage of races, religions, and tongues, is riveted together by volcanoes. Reverence for them is virtually a national trait.’ Read on >>

18th-century climate change: the summer of acid rainThe Economist (19 December 2007)
‘In Europe, the summer of 1783 had been unusually warm, the warmest recorded in England before 1995. White called the season “an amazing and portentous one, full of horrible phenomena”, and complained of the abnormal number of wasps. The heat may have been a short-term greenhouse-gas effect from high concentrations of sulphur dioxide. … At the time, some people suspected the volcano might be to blame. Benjamin Franklin, then America’s ambassador to Paris, wrote to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester that “[the sun’s] effect of heating the Earth was exceedingly diminished. Hence the surface was early frozen. Hence the first snows remained on it unmelted. Hence the air was more chilled. Hence perhaps the winter of 1783-84 was more severe than any that had happened for many years.” In speculating upon the cause, he wondered “whether it was the vast quantity of smoke, long continuing to issue during the summer from Hecla in Iceland [near Laki]”. It was.’ Read on >>

The most powerful volcanic eruption of the twentieth century – Geology.com (12 December 2007)
‘On June 6th, 1912 a tremendous blast sent a large cloud of ash skyward and the eruption of the century was underway. People in Juneau, Alaska, about 750 miles from the volcano, heard the sound of the blast – over one hour after it occurred. For the next 60 hours the eruption sent tall dark columns of tephra and gas high into the atmosphere. By the time the eruption ended the surrounding land was devastated and about 30 cubic kilometers of ejecta blanketed the entire region. This is more ejecta than all of the other historic Alaska eruptions combined. It was also thirty times more than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens and three times more than the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the second largest in the 20th Century.’ Read on >>

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