Tag Archives: Iceland

An Illegal Volcano

From Daryl Cagle’s “Daily Updating Political Cartoons

illegal volcano
illegal volcano

EUFAR's Measurement Flights Of Volcanic Ashes

Alas, the “major measurement news” are coming out slower than expected. Anyway: all those interested can head off to the European Facility for Airborne Research  (EUFAR), where a mailing list has been set up to share information (not sure if that’s open to the public yet).

Here’s EUFAR’s relevant page as of now:

Measurement flights of volcanic ashes

This page will be updated regularly with new information.

Next EUFAR teleconference tomorrow Wednesday 21st at 2:00 P.M. (CET)

  • to report what has been measured so far
  • to share experiences.

2 teleconferences took place to discuss the “Status about the volcanic ashes measurement flights”:
– on the 19/04/2010 – meeting 01
– on the 20/04/2010 – meeting 02.

A mailing list to exchange information about the ash measurements is already operational. Please contact bureau@eufar.net to subscribe or un-subscribe.
A webpage has also been created. It is available from the “What’s new?” section of the EUFAR website homepage www.eufar.net or directly at:http://www.eufar.net/wiki/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/EufarCMS/VolcanicAshes?skin=view.
A repository to share all the data collected within the aircraft operators and the scientific community will be set up by Wendy Garland from BADC. You will be informed when this is completed (in the next few days).

Volcanic Debacle, Failed Models, And Mean "Greens"

Sounds like anthropogenic global warming, doesn’t it? The danger exists, but it is being senselessly exaggerated.

What if behind the decision to stop flights on a continental scale were the failure of a whole way of thinking public policy in Europe, with an asinine fixation on using computer models?

What if the aftermath of weeks of anthropogenic fear about millions dying of swine flu or maybe not, and the aftermath of weeks of anthropogenic fear about volcanic cloud making airplanes drop from the sky like flies or maybe not…what if people finally opened their eyes about the extreme limitations of computer modeling?

Who knows. Meanwhile, let me state clearly that I am fully aware of the potential risks for an airplane flying in the wrong conditions and at the wrong time through a cloud of volcanic origin. But there are enough indications to doubt the necessity of a reaction even remotely like the irrational panic that is causing the closure of European air spaces.

For example, the famous BA9 flight that almost crashed in 1982, was not the only flight to pass through that area. Wikipedia reports that the airspace around the Galunggung volcano was temporarily closed after the accident, reopened days later and permanently shut only after a similar incident to a Singapore Airlines flight around 19 days later, on July 13, 1982.

Indeed, there are indications that the first “encounter” with the ashes from Galunggung had occurred on April 5. That is, in three months and with little precaution taken, only twice the conditions were bad enough for flights to experience severe problems. And even if we consider the famous eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, despite the resulting cloud being able to travel 8,000 kilometers to the East Coast of Africa, the total tally was of 20 “damaged” planes, none of them as badly as BA9.

Think about it…billions and billions of flight hours since the Wright brothers, thousands and thousands of flight accidents of all sort and a grand total of 22 issues with volcanic ash, none of it deadly.

Sounds like anthropogenic global warming, doesn’t it? The danger exists, but it is being senselessly exaggerated. Even a recent NASA study, stating that virtually invisible and imperceptible volcanic clouds can still cause serious damage to an aircraft, can’t dispel the doubts since, were that to be true, the effect of ash would have been long noticed in the maintenance of thousands of airplanes.

Anyway…where reason fails, money can still rule the day, hence the airlines’ discontent about the decision to keep everybody grounded. Lufthansa and Air Berlin protested first to the newspapers, and even Niki Lauda moved swiftly from caution to crying foul after finding out that the cloud of Eyjafjallajökull is not everywhere and anywhere in Europe.

Besides, once the Met Office has been found out as the main reason for the air space closure, and one of its computer models, memories of recent colossal gaffes and prediction errors just make it humanly impossible to avoid a good deal of skepticism…

There is also a clear problem with procedures. What has happened in 2010 that is so fundamentalle different from 2004 for example, when the Icelandic volcano Grímsvötn caused disruption of flights but in a limited area, and only resulted in precaution about flying some parts of the North Sea?

On Sunday, trade associations of European airports and airlines have issued a statement asking why a definitely not uncommon event (Iceland is full of volcanoes and eruptions follow one another) provoked different reactions in Europe than anywhere else in the world.

How difficult could it be to close part of the Icelandic and Atlantic airspace, fly some planes and launch some balloons to measure the situation, double-check aircrafts after they land in surrounding areas? And in fact that is what is probably going to happen anyway, and measurements have already started in earnest on Monday 19 (details in German: here, here and here).

Meanwhile, reknown experts are starting to speak up against the madness. Here’s an interview (in Italian) with Prof Guido Visconti of the University of L’Aquila, Italy. Prof Visconti teaches Atmospheric Physics, is Director of the local Extreme Phenomena Center, and has worked in the past with NASA and Harvard University. His opinion? “Much precaution about nothing…we have started taking measurements today in Italy and what we see is small and unimportant“.

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Concluding with a note of regret, one has to report (but not necessarily link) various sites who take actual pleasure in what has happened, because for a few days you there is a little less emissions of CO2, and also humanity gets to suffer instead of being happy and flying. Too bad for the people of Kenya, right?

Ash Cloud – Expect Major Measurement News On Tuesday

Can’t reveal much now but well-respected international air measurement organizations have been busy measuring up the volcanic material above the European skies, on Monday (finally). This means that we can expect for early Tuesday major news about where there are actual problems for flying.

This may or may not have anything to do with the newly-found courage by UE Transport Ministers, finally seeing the light in managing the volcanic ash risk, instead of cowering in panic.

Met Office Atmospheric Models Cause International Chaos – Why Am I Not Surprised?

The old computational forecasting wizards at the Met Office are behind the decision of closing so much of Europe’s airspace.

Of course they are.

(yes, it’s “well-proven” models, no direct measurement, the works!)

From the Herald Sun:

German airlines Lufthansa and Air Berlin said the decision to close much of Europe’s airspace was not based on proper testing. They said that their aircraft showed no signs of damage after flying without passengers.

The decision to close the airspace was made exclusively as a result of data from a computer simulation at the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London,” Air Berlin chief executive Joachim Hunold said.

The “Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London”? Here it is, at the Met Office:

When a volcano in its area of responsibility erupts, the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), based at the Met Office, runs the NAME atmospheric dispersion model. This, and similar models, are well proven and we can use them to predict the spread of pollutants following a chemical or nuclear leak or even the spread of airborne diseases. In this case we use the dispersion model to forecast the spread of volcanic ash plumes.

The London VAAC forecaster provides the location, start time, release height and the top and bottom of the plume (if known) and the model is run. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Output from this model is in a map-based graphical format, and can detail expected ash concentrations over a large region. The forecaster uses this detail to prepare the volcanic ash advisory message with the expected positions of the ash plume for up to 24 hours ahead.

The Advisory message is then used by aviation authorities to decide whether airspace needs to be closed to prevent aircraft encountering volcanic ash.

Note how the Met Office washes its hands from any decision, and yet in all those years with NAME, it has apparently decided not to complement the model results with in-situ measurements. A “revolutionary” idea brought forward at present by Lufthansa itself…

Not one single weather balloon has been sent up to measure how much volcanic ash is in the air.” Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walter added. “The flight ban, made on the basis just of computer calculations, is resulting in billion-high losses for the economy […] In future we demand that reliable measurements are presented before a flying ban is imposed.”

Iceland: The Financial Collapse As A Political And Moral Scandal

Translated from “Darf ich Ihnen das Einwohnerverzeichnis anbieten?“, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 17 Feb 2009

(original German translation by Gudrun M. H. Klöse)

Waiter! The Icelandic Phonebook, please!
Why Iceland’s financial collapse is a political and moral scandal / by Einar Mar Gudmundsson

Once upon a time there was a cannibal flying first class. Given an extensive menu, he politely thanked the stewardess, then handed it back and said: “I cannot find anything good for a snack. Would you be so kind and bring me the passenger list, please?”

I don’t want to equate the richest Icelanders, who together with the Government have left us out in the cold, with man-eaters, at least not in the literal sense: but after becoming incredibly wealthy, it looks like they went back to the Government and the Supervisory authorities and said: there is nothing crispy enough for us to gobble any longer. Would you be please as friendly as to provide us with the list of all Icelandic children?

And I am not saying that anybody should be compared to Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, but the Government and their Regulatory Authorities look like they have replied to the country’s Monetary Aristocracy: “Yes, please, here’s the list of all Icelanders. Can we do anything else for you?”

This is nothing short of treason, and therefore we require and pretend, we, who only can claim to have children and grandchildren, the freezing of everything of value that has been used to enrich people at our own expenses. And those people must be made accountable for their actions. Since the justification for their high salaries was the fact that they were working against targets, then we should now take them at their words, and identify their responsibilities. Instead their loss has been nationalized, and the whole System invited to investigate itself.

Under these circumstances, even Franz Kafka would appear like a dry realist. True, it can be claimed that the Government is now gone, and the leadership of the Financial Control Council has been replaced: still, the old system still leads a good life. Corruption in the finance world extends up to the new government of Geir Haarde, while Iceland sits on a debt of thousands of billions of Krones. And it is us the ones that have to pay those debts, together with our children and grandchildren, now fully dependent on the good graces of the IMF and other lenders.

And in these “Tohu va bohu” times, void and without form like the world at the beginning of Creation, one should ask oneself if perhaps Karl Marx had it right all along. A friend of mine, who’s got all the volumes of the “Capital” and has even read them, told me that a condition like the one we are going through is described in the third volume. Few have read this book, and I haven’t, because there is so much mathematics in the second one.

My friend says that Marx deals in the third volume with “fictitious capital”: that means capital not with actual property behind profit, but rather with worthless pieces of paper that change hands, worthless in the sense of unreal.

That’s the box of tricks played with by the Icelandic Neokapitalists, stylishly and zippily wearing the nickname of Export Vikings. They were shining as demigods devoting themselves to noble tasks, and their wives to the plight of children in Africa, all of that, in newspapers which they owned anyway. Men bought themselves a place into companies, won the majority stakes therein, founded new companies, propped up one another and then pocketed the values of the old companies, that is, what was owned by the shareholders. That’s how the box of tricks worked, and many healthy, profitable companies have been lost along the way. Then those men went back to appear on their newspapers, with their own Alpine ski slope, luxury homes in Manhattan and yachts in Florida.

You may have noticed that I used the expression “box of tricks”. That’s not completely true. Actually, everything went according to the rules of the free market. No laws and no regulations prevented the actions of the financial Barons. The Government slumbered on, shrugged the issues away and cheered up the Money Lords, to the point that Ministers would feel more or less offended when not invited to the parties where the glitz and glamor of Hollywood rubbed shoulders with Iceland.

The basis of this system was the coalition between the Independent Party and the Progress Party, as if in a “Fishing Quotas” system, but with the right to trade and make money about fish that had yet not been caught. Soon under the coalition, the banks were privatized, without rules and without any control for the new management. The leaders of those parties, David Oddsson and Halldãr Ásgrímsson, had twelve years of experience at the Government bank. They were so keen with the privatization of banks, they generously threw in summer homes and art collections with the privatization. Anybody and everybody who criticized the new system was summarily classified as jealous, dumb or outdated.

The business sector assumed power in the country. It was based on the so-called Economic Council. Either had legislators in their bag, or these took a long nap throughout their mandate. In one declarition by the Council it is stated ‘Arguments against public regulation and control of the financial market are more convincing than arguments in favor of such meddling. It would be sensible to encourage market partners to define their own rules and abide by those”.

And about the success of their maneuvering: “An investigation by the Economic Council revealed that the Parliament in 90 percent of cases followed the recommendations of the Council itself.”
The Economic Council had de-facto got in charge, without anyone noticing.

The American expert on the financial crisis, Robert Aliber, repeatedly warned that the Icelandic Government and the Central Bank were even less capable than astrologers to steer our modern economy. They did not understand that the economic growth was built upon a pumping system, – loans were taken in order to pay off other loans – and now they do not know how to re-establish a balance, after the paper wealth has disappeared. Aliber added that it would have been unlikely that different leaders, perhaps arbitrarily selected out of the Phonebook, would have been able to create an economic Desaster as extensive as our Government did.

Iceland’s debt in per-capita terms is higher than the crippling reparations imposed upon Germany after WWI. In Icelandic Kronen, it is expected to be as much as the debt in the Italian budget. But Iceland has approximately 310 000 inhabitants, Italy 60 million.

But the Directors of the new private Banks regarded their activity as such good as a performance that they could cash in every month an equivalent sum to the Nobel Prize. Confronted to the large generosity they reserved to themselves, they angrily threatened to go abroad. We could have done well to them to wish them a good trip, like in the saga of Grettir the Strong, and to beg them just never to come back. But they claimed that abroad there was a strong demand for them, and they lied much about responsibility.

And this is now the gist of the matter, now, after the collapse: Why those that were claiming so much responsibility before, now take no responsibility? If somebody talks about the responsibility of the New Rich, it is only in juridical terms, as if something unlawful may ever be found; and as if the Nation should now be forced in rummaging through codes and contracts, in order to get reparation for the damage. This ignores the fact that responsibility lies also in social, economic, political and ethical terms.

Whilst all the wonderful prescriptions to say “sorry” come out of the crater that all that it’s left of the Banks, the New Rich say: there is nothing unnatural or unlawful in what has happened. How could it be otherwise, given the fact that the Market Economy had full control of the Parliament? Example: the Bank “Kaupthing” lent a British pubs chain around 107 billion Icelandic Krona just before collapsing – a sum approximately as high as the sum of the value of all Icelandic mortages in foreign currencies.

Let’s consider what has happened in the light of the Hávamál in the Edda, what can be considered as most ethically representative of our heritage. The question then becomes: Had anybody been able to domesticate Humans, using money to transform people into apes? That would have been the task for politicians, but it seems that of late they were tamed by the apes. How could that happen?

If the government were like our parents, the Children Protection Agency would have already intervened. Therefore it is just logical that the Government had to resign. Now there is a kind of interregnum until elections at the end of April.

Everything now depends on the active participation of the Icelanders and on their fighting spirit. The danger is that the discouse will still be nominated by the well-lubricated election machinery of the government parties, those that during our so-called pot-lid revolution have look like pitiful figures. The struggle that lies ahead is therefore also a struggle for establishing the right language. And for credibility. Currently the Elites pity themselves, angry with their executives, and the former Minister and current Head of the Central Bank David Oddsson is refusing to go, even if invited to do so by the Government. If only all the people currently unemployed would have proceeded according to Oddsson’s model, they would have simply said, upon receiving the contract termination notice, that they felt insulted and would continue to work no matter what.

Compassion, cohesion – during the booming years those were almost ridiculous notions. Competittion was seen as the natural way forward. Everybody ruminated about that. Commentators spoke under a spell, and the Market became part of television news as indispensable as the weather. Nobody dared to ask what the FTSE and Nasdaq exactly were, in order not to look a smaller player.

But if welfare programs were small during the times of prosperity, how will they become during the period of crisis that is now starting? Not everybody was rich during the fat years. We saw pensioners endure living in tiny rooms, and others become homeless. The lower wages were absurdly so, and medium-level employees had to use all their salaries to keep paying their debts and sustaining their families. It is obvious that it is not people with low wages that have benefited from the “recovery money”.

An American financier said once that the best moment to start buying things up, is during the time of riots, when blood flows through the streets. Is that what our Government is waiting to react? Signs of the beginning of that already exist. Indebted firms find themselves debt-free and back in the hands of their former owners. That goes on particularly smoothly. The same people occupuy the same positions, while each one of us has to contend with being in the red for 10 or perhaps 20 million Kronas. And like everything else, even the exact amount of our debts is a matter of contention, as they should be cumulated with household mortgages, money lost with the devaluation of the Krona, private bankruptcies and unemployment.

Perhaps Iceland is a kind of experiment for what will happen to the whole world. In any case, an at least excessive result of the situation, of the crisis, as much as it can be recognized, is that the debt obligations of the Icelandic banks are twelve times the gross national product. Someone told me that this mirrors the situation worldwide. But it is still premature to state what the crisis actually means and how it will evolve. Before the loss, nobody was right in evaluating their possessions. And now it is difficult to predict whether the “fat servant” will manage to rise, now, in the place where he was made to become a thrashed-up slave..

Einar Mar Gudmundsson is a writer living in Reykjavik.