Christmas flights disrupted: ‘Hazardous’ volcanic eruption looms | Science | News

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Scientists have proven that ash caused by an eruption on Deception Island could disrupt air travel as far away as South America, Australia, and Africa.

Charles Connor, a geoscientist at the University of South Florida in Tampa said: “We have to reassess the potential hazards for global transportation networks posed by even these remote volcanoes.”

There have been around 30 eruptions over the last 10,000 years, with the last one being in 1970.

Both Argentina and Spain have scientific research bases on the island, and tourists flock there to admire the world’s largest colony of chinstrap penguins.

Adelina Geyer, a geologist at the Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera in Barcelona, Spain, and her team modelled an eruption on Deception Island by simulating different column heights for volcanic ash at five, 10, and 15 kilometres.

Ash in the atmosphere is a serious problem for aircrafts because it melts inside of engines and gums up fuel lines. It also does not appear on the radar.

There have been hundreds of alleged incidents of aircrafts encountering volcanic ash, such as the 1989 case of KLM flight 867, which lost power in all four engines and fell more than 13,000 feet after flying through an ash cloud from Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano.

More recently, when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, its ash clouds forced officials to close airspace across Europe, resulting in billions of dollars in losses.

The scientists concluded in a report that an eruption on Deception Island would cause ash to be prevalent on a global scale.

In February 2018, part of Ms Geyer’s team will embark on a journey to Deception Island via air and sea to record data that could help improve their model.

She said that they will be studying recent eruptions “to determine what kind of eruptions we can expect in the future”.

Meanwhile, the world has been “slightly lucky” not to have already endured a super eruption, according to Professor Jonathan Rougier who lead the study with Bristol University.

Catastrophic volcanic eruptions, which can cover an entire continent with volcanic ash and block out sunlight for months, bringing on a mini ice age, were thought to take place about every 45,000 to 714,000 years.

However, now a new scientific study claims they happen much more frequently at between about 5,200 and 48,000 years.

Currently, Mount Agung, on Bali, Indonesia, is fiercely erupting, with its power building.

More than 100,000 people have had to evacuate their homes as the threat grows.

The last known super-eruption is believed to have occurred about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.

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