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#1 2015-01-14 12:16:29

Iceland Eruptions
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Q&A on 1783 Laki eruption (with some Barda and Holuhraun...)

"This month, Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe’s excellent book on the 1783 Laki eruption in Iceland called Island on Fire gets its US release. The book tells the geologic and historical tale of the largest eruption (by volume, almost 15 cubic kilometers of lava) in the last few thousand years along with the multitude of potential effects the eruption had on global climate. With the current eruption at Holuhraun still going (now ranking as the largest in Iceland over the past 200 years at 1.15 cubic kilometers of lava), it seems even more relevant today to talk about these giant lava flows in Iceland.

So, if you have any questions about the Laki eruptions and its effects, leave them as a comment here by January 15 and they will be sent to Alex and Jeff. They will tackle the questions and you can check back soon to read their answers."

Source: wired.com Ask The Author

One very interesting question, already posted by Martijn Keizer is the following:

Laki is mostly infamous for causing a humanitarian crisis in Iceland and (to a lesser extent) in Europe. With modern developments in medicine and international aid, you could argue that these effects would be less. However, nowadays there is a much bigger population density, which might counteract this. If a Laki-style eruption would occur today, do you think the humanitarian problems would be less or more severe, and by how much?

Very anxious to read the author's answer!


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#2 2015-01-20 08:05:22

Iceland Eruptions
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From: The Netherlands
Registered: 2014-12-18
Posts: 372
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Re: Q&A on 1783 Laki eruption (with some Barda and Holuhraun...)

Island on Fire, a book by Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe, was recently released in the U.S. The book tells the story of the 1783 eruption of the Laki fissures in Iceland, an event that not only have a profound impact on Iceland itself, but also the world for years (decades?) afterwards.

The Laki fissures were a series of very large lava flows that covered the landscape with over 14 cubic kilometers of lava and over 120 megatons of sulfur dioxide (compare that to Pinatubo in 199 that released only 20 megatons.)

Readers of the blog "Eruptions" at wired.com had a chance to send in some questions for the authors of the book about Laki. But you can imagine several questions were asked about the actual events, mostly in comparison to Laki.

Here are these specific Q&A:

SnailofFail: Firstly, how did the rate of lava flow [for Laki] compare to that of the current eruption at Holuhraun?

Witze and Kanipe: The new lava flow at Holuhraun is the largest in Iceland since 1783, but it’s only a fraction of what Laki put out. You can see a map comparing the erupted lava so far here (it dates back to November, but it’s still generally accurate at the scales we’re talking about).

SnailofFail: How come the current eruption hasn’t been nearly as destructive as the Laki eruption even though they are both large fissure eruptions?

Witze and Kanipe: See above: the amount of lava coming from the Holuhraun fissure is nowhere close to what Laki put out. The same is true for the sulfur dioxide coming from Holuhraun: although it emits some 35,000 tons of SO2 daily (levels that threaten scientists working at the site, and sometimes Icelanders farther away), that’s still only about a tenth of Laki’s sulfur production rate.

The Holuhraun eruption is also happening in a very remote part of the country. There are no towns being threatened by the lava flow, as there were with Laki in 1783.

SnailofFail: Finally do you believe the current eruption will ever come close to equaling the volume of lava produced by Laki?

Witze and Kanipe:
The current eruption would have to up its game dramatically to get anywhere close. So far there’s been little indication that might happen — but you never know!

Martijn Keizer: Laki is mostly infamous for causing a humanitarian crisis in Iceland and (to a lesser extent) in Europe. With modern developments in medicine and international aid, you could argue that these effects would be less. However, nowadays there is a much bigger population density, which might counteract this. If a Laki-style eruption would occur today, do you think the humanitarian problems would be less or more severe, and by how much?

Witze and Kanipe:
We think a Laki-style eruption would cause more devastation today than in 1783, simply because of the sheer amount of people who would be involved and the interconnected nature of modern society. Look at how European business was devastated in the spring of 2010 by planes being grounded during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which was only a relative pipsqueak. The UK Cabinet Office is studying scenarios to better understand the economic and social consequences of a gas-rich eruption like Laki 1783. The emergency preparedness experts there are taking the threat of a Laki-style eruption quite seriously.

jduexf: Is the current eruption likely to have any effects on climate?

Witze and Kanipe: Not the way it’s going. The gas isn’t being lofted high enough into the atmosphere to be carried long distances and have a climatic effect.

Erik Klemetti: What is your favorite Icelandic volcano (after the Laki fissures, of course)?

Witze and Kanipe: Holuhraun! Because it is so much like Laki.

Read the rest here.


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