A Prolonged Period of Something

| July 2, 2020

Iceland’s volcanoes have been busy the past few months. If you remember 2010, a mostly quiet volcano named Eyjafjallajökull showed signs of eruption well ahead of its actual event, but no one except geologists, volcanologists and Icelanders really took it seriously until it happened.

Eyjafjallajökull lies 25 km (16 mi) west of another subglacial volcano, Katla, under the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap, which is much more active and known for its powerful subglacial eruptions and its large magma chamber. That’s pronounced “ayafyattlayerkull”.  (No, I don’t speak Icelandic, but it’s based on Old Norse, so maybe some day….)

The two volcanoes have a common linkage to each other. Geologic evidence shows that when Eyjafjallajökull erupts, Katla is not very far behind with her own eruption cycle. By ‘not very far’ is meant ‘years’, not weeks, months or days. It has been 10 years since Eyjafjallajökull burped good and hard, coughed, shuddered and produced a high volume of ash that shut down all air travel from and to Europe/North America. People in the UK who could not get airline tickets to Europe went to trains instead. Others had to wait a bit. It was so terribly inconvenient for that to happen to them, too.

There was the usual panic-attack news reporting from US news services, and the usual appearances by “professionals” who did not refer to it as a Doomsday Event Number Whatever, the way the newsies like to refer to a big berg breaking off from the coastal edges of Antarctic glaciers.

Frankly, I wondered for a very long time how many months or years would pass before Katla built up enough volume in the magma chamber to produce a truly devastating eruption. And now, Katla is showing preliminary signs of an eruption. The last one was in 1918, An image of that eruption is included in the article at this link:

The reported quake count now is 9,000 quakes in a period of 10 days. While the possibility of a prolonged cold period similar to the Dalton Minimum is very real, it is early days yet to say, “yes, this is what we’re facing for sure.“  https://electroverse.net/iceland-is-rocking-9000-earthquakes-in-10-days/

There are links to other sources – valid sources – at the link in the paragraph above.

I would not say that Katla is definitely going to erupt at this point because it is a bit too soon to do so, and no volcano erupts on any Hooman’s schedule. It could happen over this coming winter, or it could be another 10 years before anything really happens. There is some surface mounding/rising, but nothing that seems to alarm Iceland’s volcanologists.

https://www.newsweek.com/iceland-earthquake-swarm-9000-1514079  Newsweek’s source is the Iceland Meteorological Office, in case anyone is wondering.

When Tambora erupted in 1815, the mountain had been shuddering for weeks ahead, which would now be a very clear sign that an eruption is on its way. As it is, Tambora’s peak was 13,000++ feet before the very explosive eruption, and afterwards, the top had been reduced to a height of 9,350 feet because, when the caldera emptied itself into the atmosphere, the explosion blasted 12 cubic miles of gases, dust and rock into the atmosphere. The following year, 1816, was the “year without a summer”, the coldest on record.

This is not saying that Katla will produce an eruption of that size. Katla’s height is 4,961 feet. The caldera is 6 miles across. How an eruption by Katla will affect the weather afterwards, the way Pinatubo did (noticeable two year drop in global mean temperature), will depend on the volume of particulates and gases that are ejected into the atmosphere and how long they stay there. The solar minimum we’re in now is forecast by NASA to last a long time, therefore, anything that adds to that loss of solar activity including heat, will have an effect on the weather.

But in case you’re wondering, the last major eruption by Katla was 1918, and a very cold period followed that eruption.

I won’t quote George Carlin (Pack your shit, folks, we’re going away) about it, but there is no harm in being prepared for truly bad prolonged weather. Examples such as prolonged periods of rain or snow come to mind, e.g., more snow than usual where you are or snow where it never falls (snow on Brazil beaches in 2010, snow in Kuwait two years ago, snow in the Atacama Desert in Chile), and early snow as in early September or very late snow as in mid-May (this year, final snow in my AO was May 10, while the snows continued to fall in the WY/ID/MT/Dakotas areas.

I have never seen anything more sad than the returning birds showing up on my front steps, trying to cover their cold feet with their feathers, and waiting for me to bring out the chow because it’s too cold for the bugs to emerge. Grackles, redwinged blackbirds, robins, goldfinches, all came back on time, as did the geese and ducks, and there was nothing for them to eat. And I ran the furnace until mid-June, which I have never done before, anywhere I lived.

But let’s get down to brass tacks on this, while we can: NASA confirms that we’re in a solar minimum period, a prolonged period of low solar activity and low to zero sunspot counts. The SOHO observatory which orbits the Sun records sunspot activity as well as the occasional comets that impact the Sun’s surface. This low solar activity has been going on since July 2006, when the Sun produced a massive CME/burp which was recorded by NASA, and then literally shut down the sunspot production to nearly nothing. NASA counts June 2008 as the start of a low solar activity period. That was more than 12 years ago. The few sunspots since then have been quite small, some of them no bigger than Earth, and what is mostly visible is those white lines that look like feathers. They are faculae, magnetic fields that normally surround sunspots (which are dark by comparison). The lack of sunspots and only faculae being visible indicates low activity. NASA’s forecast for the duration of this low activity period is now slowly moving toward a solar minimum, which is supported by NASA’s SDO instrument measurements.

And now NASA is telling us that these cycles occur on a repeated basis and we are entering into a grand solar minimum: https://climate.nasa.gov/blog/2910/what-is-the-suns-role-in-climate-change/

Buckle your seatbelts, folks. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Category: NASA, Science and Technology

Comments (14)

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  1. Slow Joe says:

    Ex, I love your articles about climate, geology, the sun, and all the cool natural things that happen on our planet.

    I know people don’t comment as much in this type of article, but they are amazing.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Thanks, Joe. I just checked live reports on ash emissions this morning, in the Pacific and there are many volcanoes actively emitting tons of ash and gases high into the atmosphere, as much as 30,000 feet. It will all have an effect as it accumulates.

      • 11B-Mailclerk says:

        There is always volcanic activity. The “ring of fire” around the Pacific, for example. The Hawaii and Iceland hot-spots also are prolific areas.

        We live on a ten mile thick solid rock crust, of an over 9000 mile sphere of heat that makes most rocks plastic and soft enough for convection. Deeper down, they are liquid and at a rolling boil.

        That heat isn’t just leftovers from earth’s formation. Accumulated Uranium functions as a natural reactor under the conditions of the core, maintaining the heat.

    • nobunny says:

      I agree with Joe. Good reads.

  2. 5th/77th FA says:

    And here I was thinking that skool was out for summer and you go dropping more sciency stuff on us. What does Raj Koothrapolli say about all this? Oh, yeah, that’s right, be had his Big Bang cancelled when his volcano erupted before Penny was ready. What I know about Iceland is what I learned from Dave Hardin (Marines get drunk in the bars and fight over the pretty girls) and from reading Red Storm Rising (all the materials God had leftover from making the Earth got put in Iceland).

    Cool article and cool linkys too. I get lost in this stuff cause one thing just leads to another and my readings on climate and weather has been limited in the past. It being kicked around here has done more to raise my awareness than any chilli cooking Ass could have had. Climate/weather, like politics, is all local but has worldwide effects. As a rule, I can look at what is happening in Mobile AL today and that is what will be happening here at Firebase Magnolia the next 24 to 36 hours. We didn’t have the “spectacular” sunsets or sunrises from the African Dust storm, but we did get a bad haze and dirt all over everything that was outside. And we saw more popcorn thunderstorms than usual. Brother J and family in SD saw the effects of the WY and ID snow and if I’d have been there when I was scheduled, the weather would have been very pleasant, almost chilly at night. DAAAAMMNN IIT! Been bumping the low 90s and higher everyday here this week and last.

    As long as we don’t have another Carrington Effect we should be OK. I’m working on building my provision stock levels back up. The supply chain for the grocers is still iffy and the meat prices are stupid right now. Hit the K Roger earlier today, can goods were spotty, ground beef beast was in the $5 per lb range, orast cuts 8-14 USD per lb. May regret not getting that beef loin that was priced at $9.99, cut and wrapped. Bacon prices were north of $5 per lb. Canned critter food was up 10 – 13 cents per can. Plenty of local peaches and melons, citrus was very spotty along with dry staples. Spoke with the manager and she said don’t matter what they order from the warehouse, they never know what is coming till they unload the truck. Good news is, they’re getting a truck everyday v twice a week.

    We will endeavor, we will persevere.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      We’re getting a pale tan moon up here at night. I’m thinking that Sahara dust and ash from all those volcanoes currently burping in the Pacific islands have something to do with that.

      Food prices up here in My Kingdom are pretty stable, but I’m thinking that having a second 5.0 cubic foot freezer might be a good investment, come winter, because there’s no way to know what’s going to happen. And get new chimneys for my great-gramma’s oil lamps and new wicks, because I might need them.

      Besides, I have to have room to store as much ice cream as I can get. 🙂

      It’s going to be strange times ahead of us.

  3. OWB says:

    OMG!!!!! W*E A*R*E D*O*O*M*E*D!!!!!!!!!

    There. Was that hysterical enough to show the snowflakes among us that I take this seriously?????

    Me? I gonna make sure the winter protective gear in all in good order. Soon. Not today.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Yes, and I’m ordering another pair of Danner insulated boots, just in case. All my sweaters are too big for me now, so I’ll keep them and wear extra stuff under them. 🙂

      Personally, I don’t think the snowflakes are likely to survive a real episode of prolonged cold, but I’m guessing they’ll all migrate to the cities, because that’s where “stuff” is, even if it doesn’t get delivered when the other shoe drops.

      I should probably get my kitty a little sweater to keep her extra warm, too.

  4. Slow Joe says:

    Funny thing about Google.

    I searched Apocalypse Never conservative review, and I got a bunch of liberal reviews.

    And then they say big tech is not biased against conservatives.

  5. Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH B Woodman says:

    I’m surprised Ex didn’t mention
    a polyglot site that reports far and wide over the enviro news, and pops the greeniac balloon.

    • Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH B Woodman says:



    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Oh, I get a lot of stuff from them, but I also go to the sources they quote. This popped up on another site about global this-and-that, and I have NASA’s geophysical stuff that I can turn to, also.

      I want to see what happens with the hippies and the other twits when the fit really his the shan. I’m willing to be they will migrate south to the beaches of Florida, just ahead of it snowing down there. (Yes, I was down there in 1972 when it snowed. Awesome stuff.)

      There is some strange stuff going on. Fortunately, when I checked the New Zealand snow report this morning, they have plenty of powder for snow bunnies on the South Island, and it’s only early in July. They’re expecting even more over the next few weeks.

      Chile’s ski resorts are posting snow depths for ski bums, as well.