Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thanks, Eyjafjall

It's a lovely morning here in the English Midlands: a clear blue zenith, with a rosy sunrise. It is hard to believe there is significant volcanic dust and sulphur dioxide up there, but probing flights show there is.
Sunset yesterday was similarly clear, with a sky of darkening blue and a pink sunset.

I recall the spectacular sunsets and sunrises I witnessed in 1991 in Al 'Ain, in Abu Dhabi Emirate. Mount Pinatubo had erupted a few days before, in the Philippines, half a world away. That eruption injected cubic kilometres of volcanic solids and gases into the atmosphere, enough to spread around the globe.
In Al 'Ain the sun rose and set beneath great curtains of red and purple, reaching up to the zenith. This went on for several days. Our present displays are trivial in comparison.
No airspace was closed in Arabia during this event: flying continued as normal, if I remember correctly.

Today we have a rare opportunity to enjoy a spring morning unspoiled by aircraft: quiet, and no contrails. It demonstrates the degree of pollution inflicted by aircraft, to which we have become accustomed.
On a flight to Spain last year I saw the extent of the pollution at the contrail level, and how some contrails at least have a brownish tint when seen from the side.
Contrails are visible pollution: outside the contrail level the pollution is the same, but invisible. And much of it is stratospheric, slow to circulate to ground level, where most natural clean-up occurs.

Reduction of air transport and travel must be a priority if we want a cleaner atmosphere.

So, this morning I say: Eyjafjall, þakk yður fyrir.
You have reminded us about the mess we are creating, and the natural beauty we are destroying.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes. But you were the one to take a flight to Spain.

I am not sure contrails have much to do with pollution. They are mostly water vapour and you don't have to have engines to produce them as this picture shows.

As you point out, the pollution that matters is not visible.