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Risk Management Solutions says KATLA eruption "Probable"

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04/22/2010 04:10 PM
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Risk Management Solutions says KATLA eruption "Probable"
[link to www.property-casualty.com]

NU Online News Service, April 23, 12:56 p.m. EST

A second, more gigantic, ash cloud eruption from another Icelandic volcano named Katla is now “probable” a catastrophe modeling firm is warning.

That caution came today from Risk Management Solutions in Newark Calif. just as air traffic disruptions were easing after the ash cloud from Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland began dispersing.

In addition, RMS said that Eyjafjallajökull eruptions may worsen again and could go on for years.

The days of halted air traffic were expected to create millions in passenger travel insurance claims and possibly others related to other segments, although the event was generally not seen as covered by business interruption policies.

RMS said of the recent eruption in a report that, “It is possible, and even probable, that is only the warm-up act to the main event. Eyjafjallajökull is a moderate sized volcano neighboring the much larger Katla volcano. Previous eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull have been followed by much larger eruptions from Katla.”

Currently, the modeling firm said it is assessing the process of plume drift from explosive Eyjafjallajökull eruptions.

Katla, RMS noted, is covered by a major ice sheet which could increase the explosive power of an eruption and throw up a higher altitude ash cloud. “Katla tends to produce much coarser ash, which will have a different pattern of atmospheric fall out. These factors could all affect the potential for future acid fog clouds over Europe,” RMS reported.

The paper from RMS examined how the Eyjafjallajökull eruption event could impact public health in Europe and the consequences for life and health insurers.

According to the modeling firm, the current ash cloud poses only mild health consequences despite notices issued by European Public Health Agencies and the World Health Organization warning to people who suffer from bronchitis and emphysema and others with respiratory problems to avoid the dust and stay indoors.

It said a large eruption from Katla, of magnitude VEI 4 or more, could cause the initial conditions for a more serious public health event.

The current Eyjafjallajökull eruption is currently rated VEI 2 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, an eruption magnitude scale up to VEI 8 which is logarithmic for the volume of material ejected, RMS explained.

Volcanologists “suggest that the current Eyjafjallajökull eruption phase could continue intermittently for up to two years and could go through phases of more severe eruptions,” RMS said.

Authorities, the company reported, will continue to monitor the ash and gas emission and its dispersion in the atmosphere, and the weather patterns that could bring it to the European mainland.

An eruption of a magnitude VEI 4 or more from Katla would not necessarily lead to a public health event in Europe, RMS calculated. For this to occur, the weather conditions would need to be unusual to direct the acid fog over Europe and for it to be sustained in sufficient densities to become hazardous to the general population, RMS said.

The weather conditions that brought the volcano’s fine silica cloud over Europe in mid-April were not the usual westerly wind systems that prevail on the European margins, the paper noted.

It said that for a sulfur cloud to similarly reach Europe, “these rarer wind directions and pressure systems will have to occur again. However if an eruption were to continue for a long time, it is probable that these conditions would occur at some stage.”