Saturday, April 17, 2010

Icelandic Volcano and Quiet Skies over London.

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland began erupting a few weeks ago, but a combination of factors is now wreaking havoc on European air-travel. The interaction of the molten lava with an ice-sheet 100m thick is sending a thick plume of "ash" high into the atmosphere, which is being driven to the south-east by unusual winds and has caused the grounding of all flights in the U.K. and most flights across Europe. Ryanair has suspended all flights until 13.00 on Monday, which concerns me as I am scheduled to fly to Bratislava by Ryanair on Wednesday for a small lecture tour in Slovakia and it is debatable whether all will be resolved by then.

It is what insurance companies used to call an "act of God" and we are held at the behest of the weather conditions. The volcano last erupted 200 years ago, but continued to do so for more than a year. Now in the jet-age, the risk of ash (in reality finely divided volcanic rock) being drawn into the engines of an aircraft pose the real threat of taking-out all four engines within minutes. The engine itself will be trashed by the glass produced by fusion and subsequent solidification of the ash, and the fuel-flame extinguished, thus risking aircraft literally falling from the sky should they fly through the ash-cloud.

Consequently, the inhabitants of villages and parts of London under the Heathrow flight-path can hear the birds singing on these beautiful spring days, not obscured by the cacophony of planes overhead, in a foretaste of life in the post jet-age era which will come when there is insufficient fuel to put into planes. It seems bizarre to talk of building a third runway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow and treble the number of flights by 2020, when the world is at the tipping-point of oil production, and rising demand, and all evidence is that perpetual growth is a fallacy and we are probably witnesses to the end of Capitalism.

Without cheap, plentiful oil the world will have trouble producing enough food to sustain its burgeoning population, and plane-travel will be the least of our concerns. I will probably get to Slovakia all right, but meanwhile it is worth contemplating how we might manage in the post-oil, post global-transport era.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi -
I too have been enjoying the lack of vapour trails over Oxfordshire.

I wonder, is there a net gain or loss in terms of the C02 emitted during the eruption so far - as weighed against the amount saved by grounding all the flights ?

energybalance said...

Hi,

it is eerily clear over Reading too!

there are many complex factors involved, and at least a certain amount maybe 10% x no. of days x 85 million barrels/day of oil will be saved, for what that is worth.

I take the point that a huge amount of CO2 is released from natural phenomena such as volcanoes, and I have no hard figures for what is being released from this one.

However, nature will continue to release at its own rates, while mankind acts in peril not to preserve its precious resource of fossil fuel by design, until it is forced to do so by default.

Regards,

Chris.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Chris, you used to be so good, so coherent, focused.....
Your latest post concerning Icelandic ash brought to me a fine sense of pleasant expectations, and as the aircraft of your post lifted off the runway I, and I feel, all of your ground team, your commenters, noted with pleasure the expert negotiating of the diabolical wind sheer of Icelandic place names which was quite masterly.
By the time I reached para three I was sitting comfortably back in my seat, anticipating a pleasant trip. It started off in a fine Wordsworthian manner, with birds singing etc, only, to my shock and horror, ending in a massive vibration, as the ash of previously established claims about the impending fall of Capitalism, clogged the motors. The clear view windscreen became abraded with particles of abrasive matter.
By the time the our little flight reached first part of para four, before even the aircraft was fully airborne, all sense of direction was lost, and one by one the mighty motors failed. Completely off course, unable to see clearly, without power, the aircraft started to descend. Oh, how your admirers cursed that infernal ashey cloud of deconstructionism which damaged your hitherto clear vision of the forthcoming “post-everything” era.
Captain Chris, please do not desert us, your ground crew, your still have time to restart those motors and save us all.
In the meantime you have our best wishes that you reach Slovakia safely, and return, as probably many of us also have similar wishes for our families and friends, as they try to reach somewhere other than they are now.
Best regards,
Peter Melia

Bill Code said...

Hi Professor Rhodes.

I'm a journalist with SBS Australia, and I'd like to speak to you about a table of rare metal reserves which I think is accredited to you

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb5255/is_16/ai_n30893678/pg_2/?tag=content;col1

Is there a time I can get in touch via telephone?

Thanks

Bill Code bill.code@sbs.com.au

energybalance said...

You are a card, Peter!

Looking at the clear skies it struck me that this hiatus for the airline industry might well prove a foretaste of the post-oil era, or do you think we will be able to continue as we are?

Yes, I do think we are in sight of the limits of growth, and hence capitalism - the end of the global village.

Regards,

Chris.

energybalance said...

Hi Bill,

the table of data is compiled from the references given in the article.

I'll give you my phone-number by email.

Regards,

Chris.

energybalance said...

Hi Bill,

the table of data is complied from the references given in the article.

I will give you my phone number by email.

Regards,

Chris.