Paris (AFP) April 19, 2010
Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano is emitting between 150,000 and 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per day, a figure placing it in the same emissions league as a small-to-medium European economy, experts said on Monday.
Assuming the composition of gas to be the same as in an earlier eruption on an adjacent volcano, "the CO2 flux of Eyjafjoell would be 150,000 tonnes per day," Colin Macpherson, an Earth scientist at Britain's University of Durham, said in an email.
Patrick Allard of the Paris Institute for Global Physics (IPGP) gave what he described as a "top-range" estimate of 300,000 tonnes per day.
Both insisted that these were only approximate estimates.
Extrapolated over a year, the emissions would place the volcano 47th to 75th in the world table of emitters on a country-by-country basis, according to a database at the World Resources Institute (WRI), which tracks environment and sustainable development.
A 47th ranking would place it above Austria, Belarus, Portugal, Ireland, Finland, Bulgaria, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland, according to this list, which relates to 2005.
Experts stressed that the volcano contributed just a tiny amount -- less than a third of one percentage point -- of global emissions of greenhouse gases.
Total emissions by six heat-trapping gases in 2005 were more than 36 thousand million tonnes (36 gigatonnes) as measured in CO2, according to the WRI index.
"It's not of any significance compared to the anthropogenic [manmade] budget," said Kjetil Toerseth, director of regional and global pollution at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research.
Specialists cautioned those who believe the eruption is good for climate change as carbon-emitting jetliners are unable to take to the skies.
According to the European Environment Agency (EAA), daily emissions from the aviation sector in the 27 nations of the European Union are around 440,000 tonnes per day.
Not all of this is saved because of the volcanic eruption, said the sources.
Firstly, some airports in southern Europe have remained open for traffic.
In addition, carbon is emitted when passengers stranded by air travel use the train, bus, car or ferry as an alternative.
And many flights in, to and from Europe are merely being deferred until the crisis is over.
"Whether the emissions occur now or three weeks from now does not change things fundamentally," said Herve Le Treut, a French climatologist.
"Another point is that these emissions are of long duration. CO2 is dangerous because it stays in the atmosphere for about a hundred years. Its short-term effect is not the big problem."
earlier related report
But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen denied any knowledge of the incident and insisted that the eruption in Iceland was having no impact on the military alliance's operations or its ability to defend the 28 member nations.
"This is a very, very serious matter that in the not too distant future will start having real impact on military capabilities," the senior US official told reporters.
"Allied F-16s were flying and they did find glass buildup inside the engines," he said in Brussels, adding that the ash had affected one aircraft.
Ash from volcanos can be turned into a glass form at high temperatures when it passes through a jet engine, potentially causing excessive wear on machinery.
Airspace across much of Europe has been closed to civil flights since Thursday due to the ash cloud created by an eruption at Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano.
"I think the airspace is closed for a reason," the US official said.
Military sources refused to disclose the extent of the problem.
Nearly seven million passengers have been affected by the airspace closures, which governments say are essential for safety reasons, while airlines want the restrictions reassessed as business suffers.
Air France, British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa have reported no problems after launching flights to test fears that the ash cloud would destroy jet engines.
Rasmussen said he had not been told about the reported jet fighter incident.
"I have no information about the F-16s," he said.
But he told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels: "The Icelandic volcano does not have any effect on either our operations, or our territorial defence."
A NATO official explained that the world's biggest military alliance had pre-emptively shifted two AWACS radar planes from Germany late last week to Sicily, southern Italy from where they are able to operate.
"Our airforces will always take the necessary steps to ensure that they are capable of conducting all their operations," Rasmussen said.
"They have taken the necessary steps and they will take the necessary steps to ensure that our territorial defence is intact and that we can conduct all our operations," he added.
The senior US official also said that some military exercises in the United States had already been scaled down while the real impact of the volcanic ash on equipment is studied.
He underlined that the problem highlighted the urgent need to finalise a transit agreement with Russia on the over-flight of lethal materials and troops into Afghanistan, where NATO is battling to defeat a Taliban-led insurgency.
"With the closure of airspace in Europe it becomes even more important that we can do that," the official said.
Rasmussen was stuck in Denmark over the weekend due to the air traffic chaos, missing the burial of the late Polish president Lech Kaczynski, while the alliance's military committee cancelled a trip to Kosovo planned for Monday.
"There was doubt about whether they would have been able to return," said a spokesman for the military committee, which comprises top officers from the 28 member nations.
The eruption has also cast doubt over whether a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn, Estonia set to start Thursday will go ahead.
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Eruption tapering off, spewing less ash: experts
Reykjavik (AFP) April 19, 2010
Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano has started spewing out less ash, a sign the eruption could be tapering off and that Europe's air traffic nightmare could be coming to an end, experts said Monday. "Currently the eruption has diminished markedly," Bryndis Brandsdottir of the University of Iceland told AFP, basing her comment on seismological radar readings in Reykjavik. "The ash column does n ... read more
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