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Cloudy with a chance of ash

Last week, Iceland's giant erupting Eyjafjallaj kull Volcano caused jet travel over some portions of northern and southern Europe to grind to halt. The World Health Organization issued a warning to Europeans last Friday to remain indoors as ash from the volcano began settling out of the atmosphere as it continues this week.

According to Dr. Manny Alvarez of Fox News, "The enormous dust cloud, hovering 20,000 feet over much of northern Europe, may contain large amounts of silica, a natural component of rock that comes with these types of volcanic explosions. Inhaling silica into your respiratory system can lead to a deadly, chronic lung disease and lung cancer."

In addition to these health problems, the current volcanic eruption has the potential of chilling the world's climate.

The unfolding eruption of the highly explosive Eyjafjallaj kull Volcano is eerily similar in pattern to the catastrophic eruption that created "volcano weather" here in New England during the period 1815-16. At that time, an Indonesian volcano created hardship that was endured especially by Vermont residents during the terrible year of 1816.

A frustrated Addison County farmer summed up the miserable weather events of 1816 in a letter-to-the-editor published during July in a Burlington newspaper: "(This is) the most gloomy and extraordinary weather ever seen."

The infamous Year Without a Summer spanned the period 1815-16. It was triggered by the Mt. Tambora supervolcanic explosion centered in the far-away Sunda Islands of Indonesia.

At the time Mt. Tambora blew its 14,000 ft. stack-between April 5-15, 1815-more than 36 cubic miles of volcanic ash and gases were shot high into the gyres of Earth's stratosphere. Iceland's Eyjafjallaj kull, many geologists are saying, has the potential to repeat Mt. Tambora-in 2010.

Within a few weeks and months of April 15, 1815, a mountain-sized cloud of sulphuric ash encircled the northern hemisphere like a death shroud. The ash reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the surface. Air and ground temperatures dropped. The result was an extreme big chill in places such as Vermont.

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