By John Conway | April 18, 2010 4:44 pm

Okay, I have tried, but pronouncing this one eludes me…I think it needs a new name. (Simply “Kull” might do.) This eruption, though not the largest volcanic event in recent history, has certainly had a huge impact on air travel. Initially, there were even fears of (I’ve always wanted to use this word in a sentence) pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis from breathing the silica dust. But the last I heard was that not that much was making it to the ground in high enough concentrations to worry about.

The New York Times has some amazing video, relayed from British TV 4, which is absolutely a must-see. It is some of the closest scenes yet, though the video clearly shows some crazies in a helicopter very close to the plume. I want to see night shots, with the lightning!

Will they resume flights soon? I guess it’s too early to say, but what if it keeps spewing for a long time, like it did from 1821-1823? (After which nearby Katla went off.)

Could it disrupt the climate? I am going to guess that this is a possibility, given that Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991 cooled the planet by a fraction of a degree.

  • Angus McPresley

    I for one would hate to get pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis from Eyjafjallajokull!

  • Brian

    It’s worth pointing out that pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis was not coined by scientists, but was invented by puzzle enthusiasts, who managed to obscure its true origins long enough to get it recognized by dictionaries. Medically, there is nothing to distinguish pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis from other forms of silicosis.

    As for climate disruption, it’s estimated that Eyjafjallajökull (don’t forget the diaeresis) is only emitting a fraction of the carbon dioxide that would have been emitted by the currently grounded transatlantic flights (http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2010/planes-or-volcano/ ). So that may ameliorate or even negate the climate disruption.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    the typo which brought the airline industry to its knees….

  • ChicagoMolly

    O jeez, Americans can be such language wusses! It just took me three or four tries listening to the ABC clip; just be patient and go over it a syllable at a time.

    Just be thankful the volcano isn’t in Wales or you’d have to deal with Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

  • Mandeep

    John + others interested- not only could E-kull *affect* climate change — its eruption may have been in part *effected* by it. This stunned me to read initially, but in fact, there are *published* journal articles from the last couple of years that have discussed this issue, see the sources in this: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/4/18/858333/-Climate-Change-Will-Increase-Volcanism-in-Iceland and also http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327273.800-climate-change-may-trigger-earthquakes-and-volcanoes.html

    The linkage is not of course fully clear yet — but there are some frightening possibilities here of what would happen if climate change accelerates the eruption of one the bigger Icelandic volcanoes (which include Katla)…

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/julianne Julianne

    My UW colleague and awesome weather blogger Cliff Mass explains why the climactic impact should be small:


  • Charles Evo

    ‘Kull’ won’t work because all glaciers are called kull, or more precisely, jokull (pronounced “YOkull”) in Icelandic.

  • TG

    How about just EFJ? (the first letters of the three words involved).

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ Bee

    I just read that the major Swedish airports will reopen today. I’ve been driving by car from Stockholm to Frankfurt the last days (still not quite there). There’s lots of stranded travelers on the way. The first airlines are starting to complain about the flight ban. Last update I heard on the weather situation was though that the wind isn’t going to change till Friday or so (it’s now blowing South-East, coming directly from Iceland).

  • Eric

    Astronomy picture of the day:


    Pretty amazing!

  • http://sarahaskew.net Sarah

    or this one

  • JM
  • Rohan Mehra

    Quick does anyone know where I can buy large quantities of homeopathetic remedies for pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis?

  • Dedalus1953

    If I say “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis” three times very quickly, will it cure my hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliaphobia?

  • Georg

    Hello John,
    You wrote:
    “from breathing the silica dust.”
    Where did You get this information from?
    I mean “silica dust”! Another example of creating
    news on demand.

    On islands like Island or Hawaii, there is no silica at all,
    only low melting basaltic lava forming a ash of basaltic glass.
    Glas ash like that is not a problem to lungs, because it is
    dissolved and resorbed rather fast.


  • BigEd

    Nitpick for you John: that’s a television channel called Channel 4. The phrase “British TV 4” is meaningless. Excellent video though – the opposite of TV news. The final seconds have some good lightning.

  • Katharine

    It’s EY-ya-FIAT-la-joo(that umlaut over the o sounds like the umlaut over the o in German)-kut(l)(the final l is almost imperceptible).

  • ChH

    Rohan Mehra, right here!
    I’ve had a glass of water sitting outside (in Alabama) all week. I’m sure it’s collected more than enough ash from EFJ to qualify as a homeopathic remedy for Eyjafjallajokullpneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis – but probably not pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis in general.
    Send me a money order for $1500 & I’ll bottle it up & send it to you…
    For an extra $1000 I’ll even filter out the 1/2 inch layer of pollen!

  • Sili

    Leave language to the linguists. Though I suspect that should he want to, Mark Liberman could solve the Dark Energy puzzle during a Breakfast Experiment™.

  • Maurice Hendrix

    Will “Kull” influence the climate?
    That is very unlikly actually. You compare “Kull” to Mt. Pinatubo. But they are not comparable. Mt. Pinatubo threw up ashes much higher into the atmosphere, blocking out a significant amount of sunlight globally, which resulted in a slight drop in temperature. However, ashes from “Kull” have not yet come higher that a few kilometers. Thus, the ashes are more likely to fall back to the earth or rain out before long. So, no climatic influence should be expected from “Kull”.

  • http://tispaquin.blogspot.com Doug Watts

    The Nipmucs of Massachusetts are up there with the Icelanders with

    Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.

  • Pieter Kok

    Maybe EFJ will not affect the climate that much, but I’m sure some countries are going to achieve their CO2 emission targets this year…

  • Benjamin Franz

    My favorite version I’ve seen so far was ‘Mount-Cut-And-Paste’. :)

  • http://scienceblogs.com/catdynamics Steinn Sigurdsson

    Eyja-Fjalla-Jökull – compound noun, mostly regular declension, spelled phonetically.

    The ash cloud is neither big enough, nor high enough to have any significant climate effect. Yet.
    The ash eruptions are likely to taper off for now, though they may resume, or enter a more strongly eruptive phase – but, rule of thumb is the big blasts usually don’t last as long, you just run out of stuff to shoot up into the stratosphere. Most of the time.

    cf the 1821 eruption had about a week of significant explosive ash eruption, initially, then a long period of low level of activity, an short burst of more explosive activity, and then tapered off.

    Then Katla erupted. Katla is Big.
    Katla is Not Nice. She can also mess up your climate and really get ash up there.
    Katla erupts about every 50 years.
    Last eruption was in 1918… longer the interval, the worse, on average, is the next eruption.

    There is a lot of detailed discussion over on scienceblogs – specifically at the Eruptions volcanism blog.

  • Katharine

    The Icelander speaks.

  • EDZ

    As for the name, I’m going with “Landsbanki’s Revenge.”

  • toby

    re: “the last I heard was that not that much was making it to the ground in high enough concentrations”

    looks like quite a mouthful to me:

  • ChicagoMolly


    I grabbed up a couple of online sound files to learn to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull, and the ‘ll’ sounds to my ear very much like the Welsh ‘ll’, which is unvoiced. So when you get to them you shut off the vocal chords and whisper the ‘ll’. Is that about right?

  • Shaun

    This one is actually my fault. The Sunday before last I emailed a friend about going to Iceland because I’ve always wanted to go, and then their volcano went off. My bad.

  • Pingback: Eyjafjallajokull, czyli skąd bierze się ta nieszczęsna chmura nad Europą | zajaczkowski.org()

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