Well, a Chilean volcano has finally given Australia what we tried but spectacularly failed to achieve last summer. We have The Ashes.
In a spooky parallel to the Eyjafjallajokull eruption last year, the Puyehue volcano has erupted, wreaking havoc with air travel. Just as an aside, wouldn’t it be nice if a volcano we can all spell went haywire for a change?
For so many Australian travellers, the long weekend has been long for all the wrong reasons. If you’ve been stranded somewhere, or know someone who’s been stranded, tell us your story.
There’s a very good argument that first world airports, which generally make obscene profits for their obscenely greedy owners, should put aside a small amount of real estate to use as an overflow room when travel chaos strikes, as it inevitably does several times a year.
That might avert scenes like this.
If anyone’s still unsure why ash clouds are so dangerous, news.com.au editor Paul Colgan gave a fine summary here on The Punch a while back.
Colgo’s story contained an interesting comment from the head of the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, which is one of nine such centres in the world. The centre’s boss, Dr Andrew Tupper, said “it is virtually impossible to fly in and out of Australia without going over volcanic activity”.
And now, as we’ve found out this week, volcanic activity can also go over us, even if it originates half a world away. Here’s NASA’s pic of the ash near Tassie.
And here’s the Bureau of Meteorology’s current satellite pic, which doesn’t show up the ash nearly as clearly.
The difficulty in picking up ash on weather radar is precisely what caused the problems with BA Flight 9 from Kuala Lumpur to Perth in 1982, which hit an ash cloud from yet another unpronounceable volcano – in this case Indonesia’s Mt Galunggung.
This is when the ash threat to planes was first fully understood. If you’ve got a spare 45 mins and 52 seconds, it’s all here.
We’ve watched the full episode, and maybe it’s just us, but what the hell were the pilots thinking ignoring the streaks of light which hurtled towards their plane like some cheap-arse Star Trek special effect? Anyway, hindsight is always 20/20 isn’t it.
By the way, Paul Colgan just pointed out that if your Star Trek space ship was hurtling through space at the speed of light, the stars still wouldn’t rush towards you because they would be light years away. So by definition, it would still take you years to reach them.
Anyway, forget that. Here’s a really cool special effect, and this one wasn’t made in a Hollywood basement. It’s lightning caused by all that crazy ash in the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, carbon tax sceptics are seizing upon this moment as yet another example of why we shouldn’t bother to curb, let alone tax, the miniscule amount of carbon Australian industry spews skywards each year. Are they right? Or is that just shameless opportunism? You tell us.
Oh, and a prize to anyone who picks up the obscure Red Hot Chili Peppers reference in this piece.
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