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Poor Iceland!

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

Poor Iceland! First it had to deal with being literally in the middle of the global financial meltdown. Now it is contributing once again to global woes with the volcanic eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier that is causing air traffic chaos across Europe.

Already media reports are suggesting that the economic ramifications of the big blow are going to be significant. It's not just inconvenienced travellers that are bearing the brunt, it's also producers who need to export goods from New Zealand (and other countries) to Europe and importers who deal in goods coming the other way.

It's having an impact on international politics in a small but ironic way with dignitaries planning to travel to Poland for ex-president Kycsinki's funeral tomorrow now not being able to do so. After all, it was a tragic air crash due to low cloud in Russia which caused last Sunday's tragedy which wiped out much of Poland's top leadership.

Ordinary people are suffering too.  Icelanders caught in the path of the eruption have had to be evacuated due to ash and ice melt-generated flooding. Health authorities throughout Europe are warning people, particularly those with respiratory conditions, to stay indoors and take precautions like wearing a face mask if they are planning to venture out as the ash cloud passes overhead.

In the medium to long-term, there will be ramifications on our climate too as with ash continuing to be carried into the atmosphere from what is (by all accounts) a huge eruption, it will spread globally. As with past significant volcanic eruption events like Mount Pinatubo in the Phillipines (1991) and Mount St Helens in the United States (1980), debris will settle into the atmosphere for some months, perhaps producing cooler temperatures than normal in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Therefore, expect a cooler summer if you live in northern climes and a bloody cold, long winter if you live in southern climes. I base this prediction on the fact that the Mount Pinatubo eruption helped produce the colder, dryer winter experienced across New Zealand in 1992 which generated huge snowstorms in Canterbury that year. On the plus side, though, get ready for some spectacularly beautiful red, orange and pink sunsets across the globe!

Eventually, the volcano will settle down again and air traffic activity will return to normal. Until then, the volcano (whose name no one is, with all due respect, attempting to pronounce on the English language media) will continue to cause one of the biggest travel headaches experienced this side of Sars and September 11.

For Iceland, this event has produced another unwelcome return to the international spotlight. Perhaps Bjork will now have to launch an international tour to restore the country's image.

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