Iceland volcano's ash plume seen from space
The ash plume from the unpronounceable Eyjafjallajokull volcano (above, in AP Photo by Brynjar Gaudi) continues to drift across parts of Britain and Northern Europe today. The gritty, abrasive dust can damage aircraft engines and literally grind them to a halt, so the events in Iceland have been canceling airline flights across much of the continent.
There are lots of fascinating images of the volcano and the ash plume on the Web. The best, I think, are the ones taken from the ground, or from aircraft flying upwind of the volcano, like the one above, and at left, by Fior Kjartannson (AFP/Getty Images).
But there have been many shots taken by orbiting satellites, including NASA's Aqua and Terras Earth Observing satellites. Here is a pair showing the huge steam plume that was sent up Wednesday as the volcano, erupting under a glacier, melted and boiled the glacier's ice.
As spectacular as it is, the eruption does not yet appear big enough to cause regional or global effects on the amount of sunlight reaching the surface, with significant changes in the Earth's temperature.
Such things are possible. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, in the Philippines in 1991 had a chilling effect on global temperatures (about 0.7 degree F globally) and caused gaudy sunsets around the world. Eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia in 1815 caused catastrophic changes in the world's weather cycles, leading to what was called "The Year Without a Summer" in Europe and North America in 1816.