Well, a Chilean volcano has finally given Australia what we tried but spectacularly failed to achieve last summer. We have The Ashes.

Such tranquility… such chaos

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.

Wouldn't have happened in my day. Pic: Aaron Francis

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.

It's the speckledy stuff

And here’s the Bureau of Meteorology’s current satellite pic, which doesn’t show up the ash nearly as clearly.

Rain clouds, easy to spot. Ash, not so much

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.

Gilligan really shouldn't have thrown that banana into the crater

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.

Most commented


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    • Mathias says:

      02:50pm | 14/06/11

      “and this one wasn’t made in a Hollywood basement”

      Californication smile

    • St. Michael says:

      02:55pm | 14/06/11

      And Alderaan’s not far away, it’s Californicaaaatiiiiiioooooonnnn…

    • fairsfair says:

      03:00pm | 14/06/11

      It could be any of their songs. They all sound the same.

    • Mathias says:

      03:14pm | 14/06/11


    • Kika says:

      03:37pm | 14/06/11

      Oh yeah duh fred

    • Anubis says:

      02:51pm | 14/06/11

      Julia needs to get her Carbon Tax in place to stop these pesky volcanos spewing all that Co2 in to the atmosphere

    • Sony B Goode says:

      02:51pm | 14/06/11

      Waiting for bob brown to blame the miners for disturbing the tectonic plates and causing global warming and these volcanoes to erupt.

    • Robert Brown says:

      03:37pm | 14/06/11

      Actually, it wasn’t all the miners.

      It was just Gina Rinehart stamping her foot over the carbon tax.

    • Erick says:

      02:53pm | 14/06/11

      No to ash! Ban smoking!

    • fairsfair says:

      03:02pm | 14/06/11

      ...well I see that the volcano originally came in green packaging.

    • James1 says:

      04:13pm | 14/06/11

      I just hope this volcano is paying a carbon tax.

    • ZSRenn says:

      11:43pm | 14/06/11

      I was wondering is this more than 0.073% of global emissions?

    • Kika says:

      03:04pm | 14/06/11

      Is it hindsight is always 20/20? I am a Peppers fan but I admit, I was scratching at the head to find that one.

      Amazing isn’t it. The earth is spectacular and much more powerful than we humans seem to think. When these things happen it hits home that we aren’t as all powerful and all controlling as we want to be. Earth always has the last say.

    • Mahhrat says:

      03:08pm | 14/06/11

      My Pa works the shops at the Hobart Airport (such as it is) and has many intriguing stories about who is sitting with what and where.

      It seems amazing that these most public of places allow loitering that would never be tolerated in, well, just about anywhere else.

      Certainly, there is no legal requirement for airlines or the companies running the airports to provide for stranded passengers - that’s why they can choose “insurance” - so come on, champions of the free market, why allow it?  Surely this is an OH&S hazard?

    • DaisyDuke says:

      03:09pm | 14/06/11

      I read that Volcano eruptions were “good” for global warming as all the sulphur in the atmosphere had a sun blocking effect similar to the dust cloud that caused the ice age that wiped out the dinosaurs.

      For every volcano eruption we should have a volcano eruption tax offset.

    • Jade says:

      03:33pm | 14/06/11

      Only if that offset is only available to those families that earn under 80k.  The rest of us poor sods will have to pay the volcano tax regardless.

    • Gregg says:

      01:21am | 15/06/11

      There’s actually been a few scientific documentaries re it having been a massive meteor strike that caused a global fire storm and tsunami to change the earth to be dinosaur free.

    • AnthonyG says:

      03:09pm | 14/06/11

      We must bring in a tax on ash. Anyone who has ash over their house should pay. Just think of our Grand Children. We should double the price of food gas electricity water and looliepops.

    • Mahhrat says:

      03:19pm | 14/06/11

      Pikachu is gonna be pissed.

    • Semi Concerned Citizen says:

      03:35pm | 14/06/11

      Side note : Volcanic eruption in Eritrea

      Also if Australia could just lay claim to a few active volcanoes we could offset our carbon footprint with sulfur aerosols.

    • The Badger says:

      03:40pm | 14/06/11

      See what happens when you neglect the role of human sacrifice in appeasing the gods?

    • Alter ergo says:

      04:45pm | 14/06/11

      You could always climb up and jump in,take gillard and brown with you

    • The Badger says:

      05:14pm | 14/06/11

      You wouldn’t happen to be a virgin alter ergo?
      Would you?

    • Dan says:

      04:01pm | 14/06/11

      I just wanted to say that I enjoyed the first line of the story. Bravo.

    • Denial says:

      04:14pm | 14/06/11

      I thoght it was Tony Abbott blowing more hot air

    • Gran Depine says:

      04:28pm | 14/06/11

      ALP logic. Bloody human involvement caused the volcano to erupt. If only those bloody Chileans still lived in caves and stopped Atlantic Salmon farming we wouldn’t be in this bloody Domestic air travel mess. Damn you bloody sceptics. Get ORNEN to investigate this.

      On another part of the Solar system, the Martian ice polar poles are melting….ALP logic. Damn I thought that robot Mars land rover was unmanned. Further evidence or human contribution to global warming on another planet. We can F%$# help ourselves..forget our Icelandic friend ORNEN, send the Rudd to check it out.

      Dormant volcanoes on Mars. Potential interplanetary “Krakatoa” Mark II. Decisions, decisions…let’s wag the tail. Let’s call it an immigration Martian Solution or scam more bucks with the threat of exo-planet Terrorists or stick to Agenda 21 version 2.01 space the final frontier?...Got it! Sustainable Global “change like the weather” Warming axis of evil. This will really scare the shit out of us and willing accept global austerity measures.

    • AnthonyG says:

      04:45pm | 14/06/11

      The Eruption is a symbol from above that we need more muck in the air. God has spoken.

    • HappyCynic says:

      05:01pm | 14/06/11

      I find it quite annoying how people think that carbon is a major emission of volcanic ash but ignore the fact that volcanoes aren’t burning biological material, they’re burning rocks.  Most rocks (except coal, obviously) have a very low carbon content.

      The main environmental contributor of volcanoes to the atmosphere is enormous quantities of sulfur dioxide.  This reacts with hydroxide molecules and water molecules to create sulfate aerosols which remain suspended in the stratosphere for between 2 and 3 years.  These aerosols are highly reflective, which means less solar radiation reaches the lower atmosphere.

      In other words volcanoes actually have a temporary cooling effect, that cooling effect can lead to a longer term warming effect (thinning of the ozone occurs because the sulfates are quite corrosive) but carbon is not the culprit.

      Science education these days just f**king sucks.

    • BobM says:

      05:18pm | 14/06/11

      sulfur dioxide? That doesn’t sound very good. Perhaps we can tax it…..
      God knows, we need another tax.

    • gnome says:

      05:37pm | 14/06/11

      Volcanoes don’t really “burn” anything but (particularly in subduction zones)  they do have huge amounts of calcium carbonate in their mix and this gives off huge amounts of CO2 (not “carbon”) when the pressure is released.  Sulphur, by comparison is a very minor component.

      You are right though that volcanoes have a cooling effect.  This is regardless of the amount of CO2 emitted anyway.

    • Matt says:

      06:13pm | 14/06/11

      If the climate gets too hot, we can always drop a few nukes and enjoy a nuclear winter. wink Now there is some proactive action everyone can get behind!

      *Wanders off humming ‘I don’t want to set the world on fire’*

    • fairsfair says:

      06:17pm | 14/06/11

      gnome, is that because of the ash itself? I read a random article last year that mentioned the snow dump during the last northern winter was attributed to the ash that was pumped into the atmosphere following the first icelandic eruption. I wondered if it was true, but I was too lazy to research it myself wink

    • Bev says:

      07:23pm | 14/06/11

      fairsfair says:06:17pm | 14/06/11

      gnome, is that because of the ash itself?
      Dust particle act as a nuclei around which ice crystals can form given the right temperature and moisture content in the air.  Hence seeding clouds in an attempt to make it rain.

    • Alicia says:

      05:26pm | 14/06/11

      My fiance was affected by the ash cloud. I left Darwin this morning for Sydney and he was supposed to leave Adelaide around the same time but Jetstar cancelled his flight. He was moved to tomorrow mornings flight but I have a feeling that QANTAS and Jetstar won’t fly tomorrow morning either. We’ve decided to pay $300+ to fly with Virgin tonight. It’s been a nightmare not knowing what’s happened. Bloody volcano and bloody rain in Sydney!!! raspberry

    • Sony B Goode says:

      06:59pm | 14/06/11

      Speaking of volcanoes, here is Nathan Myhrvold’s cheap solution to global warming. The fact Obama refused to consider these kinds of simple solutions is what set off the first alarm in my head about global warming. Nathan was CTO for microsoft and runs his own idea lab.


      “Nathan Myhrvold also thinks that he has found a cheap and reliable way to solve global warming, which does not involve upending and perhaps destroying the world’s economy. ....
      The global warming solution proposed by Nathan Myhvold involves running a hose up to the stratosphere with balloons and using that hose to pump out enough sulfur particles to dim the sun’s heat just enough to counteract the effects of global warming. The estimated cost would be about two hundred and fifty million dollars.”


      “Superfreakonomics: Everything you know about Global Warming is wrong”

      ““Everybody turns their knobs” — that is, adjusts the control parameters and coefficients of their models — “so they aren’t the outlier, because the outlying model is going to have difficulty getting funded.”
      In other words, the economic reality of research funding, rather than a disinterested and uncoordinated scientific consensus, leads the models to approximately match one another.

      The emphasis on carbon dioxide? “Misplaced,” says Wood. Why? “Because carbon dioxide is not the major greenhouse gas. The major greenhouse gas is water vapour.” Current climate models “do not know how to handle water vapour and various types of clouds. That is the elephant in the corner of this room. I hope we’ll have good numbers on water vapour by 2020 or thereabouts”....

      The NAS report raised the possibility of intentionally spreading sulphur dioxide in the stratosphere. After Pinatubo there was no doubt that stratospheric sulphur dioxide cooled the Earth. But wouldn’t it be nice not to have to rely on volcanoes to do the job?”

      It’s extremely enlightening that Governments where instructed about Myhrvolds ideas and promptly ignored them, choosing instead to look at ways to tax and charge companies for CO2. (Al Gore setup a Carbon exchange which recently went bust.) Worst still governments actually voted recently at some meeting to ban any simple solutions such as Myhrvolds.

    • Sony B Goode says:

      07:41pm | 14/06/11

      more from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2511875/nathan_myhrvolds_anti_global_warming.html?cat=1

      so the persephones and acotrles can’t claim they won’t read it:

      “Nathan Myhrvold suggests that volcanoes and other natural processes already pump out sulfur into the stratosphere and that his scheme, if adopted, would increase that amount by only one percent. Nathan Myhrvold therefore thinks that there would not be any unintended consequences (like starting a new ice age.)

      Nathan Myhrvold’s anti global warming scheme is intriguing, even for those people (increasingly most people) who doubt that man caused global warming is actually real. The climate gate scandal involving leaked emails suggests that the data that supports the idea of man caused global warming has been doctored to some extent. Thus there is increasing resistance to the idea of arbitrarily cutting back on carbon emissions before clean energy technology is mature enough to take the place of fossil fuels, thus causing wrenching disruptions in economic growth and personal lifestyles.

      One might suggest that Nathan Myhrvold’s anti global warming scheme might be part of a more rational solution to climate change, if it is a problem at all. The idea would be consist of the following.

      Drop all ideas of government mandated reductions in carbon emissions.

      Fund “clean energy” technology that would include not only the politically correct wind and solar, but nuclear, fusion, and space based solar energy.

      Conduct a scientific study of the Earth climate, though this time with everything being above board, with real peer review, and with dissenters being allowed to offer input and criticism.

      If there does turn out to be a man made global warming crisis, execute Nathan Myhrvold’s anti global warming scheme while the world more gradually, and more sustainably transfers from a fossil fuel economy to a “clean energy” economy.

    • seduxen says:

      07:52pm | 14/06/11

      So, how many uncountable millions of tonne of CO2 released in the last couple of days from this volcano? Who gonna pay for this? Us? Why? Are we in control? Have we been EVER in control against NATURE??? Never. It may have seen like that, but ... Mankind is here only for who knows??? They may have destroyed themselves already several times. May have burped up this stupid idea of global climate change several more periods before - according to Hopi Indian oral history, this is the Fourth Period of the Earth Inhabitants’ life. Earth did and will survive. Humans are not. To regulate and overpower Nature is not a new idea. But it stupid. The communist Soviets thought they can turn rivers around… Short lived notion… Billions of years of evolution can not be saddled in couple years… Not enough wisdom of all the Mankind. Accept it. Adopt, don’t try to pretend it. As George Carlin used to say: ...plastic bags? Nature will integrate it into Earth. Humans? Will be dead, but Earth will be here… (paraphrased…) If you think you know it better, you are ignorant and stupid.

    • RyaN says:

      08:46pm | 14/06/11

      I just can’t wait for the volcano levy that gets added to the carbon tax every time a volcano erupts.

    • Kate says:

      11:20pm | 14/06/11

      Im trapped in buenos aires in a cloud of ash with nothing but malbec to sustain me!

    • Gregg says:

      02:12am | 15/06/11

      It seems Juliar must be trapped full stop for she is now issuing the Juliar
      ” Fact ” Sheets to her troops to get out there and sell the message on the goodness of a Carbon Tax.

      A good indication of not just being trapped but increasingly more desperate with back benchers starting to disown her on a few policies of late.
      And just how factual will facts from a proven lying PM be?

    • BobC says:

      07:41am | 15/06/11

      Sounds logical to me, Sony!!

    • The Admiral says:

      08:09am | 15/06/11

      The ashmosphere has turned on us - so let’s return to sail!

    • Shenanigans says:

      10:29am | 15/06/11

      does that mean when it starts spewing out millions of tons of lava we will be taxed on that too, cos i mean really, think of all those poor innocent trees growing on the side of this volcano that will get burnt and produce carbon (being the carbon based life forms they are (damn them for being carbon based)). THINK OF THE TREES DAMN IT!

      maybe good ol Jules can bring in a Tree relocation levy, or have a lava-is-bad-cos-its-hot-and-spews-crap-into-the-air tax.

    • Steph says:

      04:26pm | 15/06/11

      My weekend was extended in Adelaide. My wife was on a flight after me today. As a consequence of my absence, I must give a special thanks to Penbo for helping carry my five year old daughter from the plane when she refused to wake.


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