Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Something in the air..

Well, after that breathtaking bit of breaking news, it's back to the more mundane review of the past month.

We pick up our review of what we missed on our summer vacation with the Daily News account with a front page story on August 12, of a volcano eruption in the Aleutians and how it impacted on Prince Rupert's air space.

Kasatochi volcano sends out three 50,000-ft-long plumes
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Pages one and three

Ruperites probably wouldn’t have noticed but a large band of sulphuric dioxide rolled across northern BC last weekend.

According to the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), the stream of gas that flew across Prince Rupert and points eastward was the result of huge plumes that puffed ash and sulphuric dioxide out of the Kasatochi volcano between Adka and Atka Island in the Alaskan Aleutian peninsula on August 7.

“There were some three 50,000-feet-long plumes of ash containing sulphuric dioxide that drifted across the North Pacific in a north east pattern causing jet air traffic trouble,” said Chris Way-Thomas, a spokesperson for the AVO. “People were stuck in airports from Alaska to Washington State waiting for the skies to clear up.”

Satellite images collected by the AVO showed a unique light blue S-shaped band moving across the Alaskan panhandle and northern B. C.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is a colorless gas with a pungent odor that irritates skin and the tissues and mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and throat. It mainly affects upper respiratory tract and bronchi.

The World Health Organization recommends a concentration of no greater than 0.5 parts per million over 24 hours.

According to the International Labour Organization, sulphuric dioxide can cause breathing problems if breathed in heavy doses.

However, such doses were unlikely given the height of the cloud and the speed it traveled through North America.

As of Monday the cloud had already pushed over to the Hudson Bay and Way-Thomas said that most of the ash and gas cloud resulting from the Kasatochi activity would disappear in a couple of days due to precipitation.

“The people most likely to be affected by any of the volcanic activity right now are those involved in air travel to and from Alaska,” cautioned Way-Thomas. “As these clouds are pretty common with eruptions, most people will not notice it but they are interesting.”

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