The Volcano, Jeff Watson

April 16, 2010 |

icelandic volcanoVolcanoes appear to shift grain prices when they are Mt. St. Helens-Krakatoa size, or the ash plume and the deposit covers significant amounts of arable land . Some cold weather grains such as barley, rye, and oats like the cooler weather with the tropicals suffering accordingly. The grain market seems to be yawning over this eruption so far. Lack of initial movement in the grain markets over a catalytic events is pretty common, like when the Russians bought most of our crop in 72-73, or when Chernobyl blew up. It took a couple of days for the market to react with Chernobyl, and when it happened, the action and reaction was the most violent ever in the history of the grain trade. The wheat market during Chernobyl was much like an earthquake, with many aftershocks for weeks after, even after the apparent damage was priced into the market. The nearby spreads were like tectonic plates crashing into one another for at least a year after Chernobyl, as late as early 1988 in my opinion.

Chris Tucker adds:

From wiki, why volcanic ash clouds cause flights to be canceled or rerouted:

Volcanic ash jams machinery. This poses a great danger to aircraft flying near ash clouds. There are many instances of damage to jet aircraft as a result of an ash encounter. Engines quit as fuel and water systems become fouled, requiring repair. After the Galunggung, Indonesia volcanic event in 1982, a British Airways Boeing 747 flew through an ash cloud that fouled all 4 engines, stopping them. The plane descended from 36,000 feet (11,000 m) to 12,000 feet (3,700 m) before the crew could manage to restart the engines.[16] In April 2010, many flights across the United Kingdom were cancelled as National Air Traffic Services closed airspace due to the presence of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere from the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull.[17] As a result of the eruption, significant flight delays also occurred in other parts of Europe.[18]

Victor Niederhoffer comments:

The eruption is canceling flights. Is it good for grains like in the previous 10 centuries?

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

CNBC just reported that this particular volcano erupted about 200 years ago and kept erupting for 2 years (need to verify this).

Past geological performance is no guarantee of future results.

A lot would seem to depend on the volume of ejecta, the particulate size (time aloft), duration of eruption as noted, and carrying currents and other meterological parameters and timing of events during year. So the percentage and total volume of ejecta into the upper atmosphere from the Icelandic volcano as it relates to the 20 or so other active volcanoes would be useful info—so far the volume seems relatively small.

During the time period this volcano last erupted (as Mr. Tucker discussed) it was unseasonably cold in 1822 in the US. Whether that would be related to volcanic activity requires a lot of investigation (and more data) and may not be possible to determine. Its, however, an interesting coincidence.

1) From a 1985 Lakeland Register article in which a researcher went back into old archived National Weather Service records:

"First the West Coast and then the east were hit by cold weather in 1822 and 1828, respectively, the latter frost killing cotton, corn and citrus."

2) And per the New York Times (1879) some people built a shanty in the middle of the Hudson River in the winter of 1822. Prodigious amounts of wood were used to keep warm.

3) Translation of Icelandic obsevations from 1820s. Ash fall resumes in June 1822. 1822 is like last week in Iceland!

The eruption in Eyjafjallajökull began in the evening of Dec. the 19th, 1821. At that time people spotted fire up on the glacier. In the morning they could see a white cloud above the glacier that stretched ever upwards, slowly darkening, ending as a thick plume of ash. As day turned to night, the plume lessened for a while, then grew again, this time with lightning and thunder. From the 21st to the 27th the ash fall was mostly steady, most of the time in a NE-ly wind and the west part of the glacier became black from the ash. Ash fell mainly around Ytri-(Outer-)Eyjafjöll and in Eastern Landeyjar. West of the glacier rumble could be heard and rivers grew greatly in volume. A glacial flood broke forth to the north-west into R. Markarfljót and filled the valley between Langanes and upper Fljótshlíð. [Literal translation would be inner-Fljótshlíð.] Grass meadows of the farms of the farms Eyvindarmúli and Árkvörn flooded, with livestock saved at the last moment. Fragments from the glacier were spread all over down to the sands west of Steinholt and took uo to two years to melt down. The ash fall was reduced greatly with the new year of 1822, but rumbles and crackles continued." Ash fall began again in latest June, mostly under Eyjafjöll. The eruption finally ended in the beginning of year 1823.

Chris Tucker adds:

It seems to me that the last six months have produced an unprecedented (at least in my minute experience) amount of seismic and volcanic activity. Almost as if someone has turned up the burner on the ring of fire. This is a very interesting interactive map of recent seismic activity. I recommend clicking on the "See Large Screen View" button in the upper right corner. I wonder what it might portend. 


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