An eruption akin to one that devastated Iceland in the 1780s would waft noxious gases southeastward and kill tens of thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – in Europe, says this new study.
From June of 1783 until February of 1784, the Laki volcano in south-central Iceland spewed an estimated 122 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide gas into the sky — slightly more than industrial activity today produces in an entire year, says this article by Sid Perkins.
In the two years following the Laki eruption, approximately 10,000 Icelanders died — about one-fifth of the population — along with nearly three-quarters of the island’s livestock.
Then the cloud spread, killing an estimated 23,000 people in Britain alone.
Using computer simulations, Anja Schmidt, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Leeds in the U.K., and her colleagues modeled how such an eruption might affect the Europe of today (published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
In the first three months following the hypothetical eruption, their studies showed that the average aerosol concentration over Iceland and northwestern Europe would more than triple, while in southern Europe aerosol concentrations would rise by 60 percent.
During the ensuing year, “the increased air pollution swept from Iceland to Europe would cause massive amounts of heart and lung disease, killing an estimated 142,000 people” – perhaps as many as 228,000.
At least four Laki-sized eruptions have occurred in Iceland in the past 1,150 years, Schmidt and her colleagues say. “Given the reasonable likelihood of such an event recurring, it is important to assess the scale on which a future eruption could impact society.”
A Laki-sized eruption would have a huge impact on crop yields and, by affecting shipping and air traffic (it could ground air traffic for 6 months or more), would also affect Europeans’ ability to import food, says Alan Robock, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
If such an eruption would kill hundreds of thousands of people, who can take steps to protect themselves, just imagine what would happen to the animals, who have no clue as to what is happening.
Food. Food. Food. Stock up on food.
As I say in “Not by Fire but by Ice” (p 215), “I think we’ll be fighting in the streets for food long before we’re covered by ice.”
See entire article:
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/09/laki-volcano-iceland-eruption-model/ Thanks to Wanda for this link