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April 19, 2010

Eyjafjallajökull erupts
Posted by Teresa at 11:28 PM * 89 comments’s The Big Picture has a breathtaking series of thirty-five photos of this most recent Icelandic volcanic eruption. Last week’s Big Picture had volcano coverage as well. It’s not as spectacular as the latest series, but it’s got some goodies.

I’ve been disappointed to observe the waste of this perfect occasion to teach everyone to say jökulhlaup, meaning “glacial outburst flood.” In Icelandic, it originally signified the flood that happens when a volcano erupts under a glacier, but geologists and broader usage have extended its meaning. It’s a useful word.

As usual with photos of the Icelandic countryside, there are pictures you could use as covers without a lot of retouching. So far I nominate this picture for The Fellowship of the Ring, and this one (with a bit more reworking) for The Two Towers.

NASA took a satellite photo of everything at once.


Rush Limbaugh has asserted that the volcanic eruption is God’s retribution for Congress passing the health care bill. He is mistaken. We have it on the word of a senior Iranian cleric, the Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi, that seismic events are caused by women who wear inadequately shapeless coats and excessively flimsy headscarves in public, and thus

“cause youths to go astray, taint their chastity and incite extramarital sex in society, which increases earthquakes. … Calamities are the result of people’s deeds.”
Neither fugghead mentioned that both Iceland and Iran sit on top of major fault lines, which guarantees that they’re going to be seismically active no matter what Congress does. Ayatolla Kazem Sedighi came off stronger on logic than Limbaugh did, since he at least assigned divine retribution to the country doing the sinning.

Limbaugh failed to mention why the Almighty would object to a law which provides care for the sick and the needy, or why He singled out Iceland to suffer for the United States’ sins. Limbaugh also failed to explain which Congressional sins were responsible for earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and China, volcanic eruptions in Chile and the Philippines, and the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunami of 2006, or why the United States—which has perfectly good seismic hotspots of its own—has suffered far less damage from earthquakes and volcanos over the past several years than countries which have no Congressional representation.

Comments on Eyjafjallajökull erupts:
#1 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:13 AM:

Even the BBC has given up on pronouncing the volcano's name. Yesterday a volcanologist said it twice without batting an eyelid and the interviewer was bowled over with admiration.

#2 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:23 AM:

*jaw drop*

I didn't know that lightning formed in volcanic ash clouds but I am glad that it does because that is *awesome*.

#3 ::: JPR ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:36 AM:

Wow Teresa, I have to second your nominations for cover art. Those are great shots! If I may nominate a second book for one of the shots, I would suggest that the second image, "this one", would be great for the Dark Tower series.

#4 ::: Vef ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:38 AM:


I know, right? If you saw it in a movie you'd think "eh, Hollywood."

No idea what causes it. I don't even know the name for the kind of expert I'd need to consult, but hopefully there's one lurking in the comment threads.

#5 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:12 AM:

Vef @ #4, a quick Google gets me this site, which essentially says (in 2005) "Nobody knows why some volcanoes generate lightning" but goes on to list some theories. Basically, magma and electricity are interacting somehow.

I dunno if there are any volcanologists in the Fluorosphere.

#6 ::: Vef ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 04:00 AM:

Thanks. I am charmed by any sentence that begins "From an electric universe point of view..."

#7 ::: Kaja ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 04:13 AM:

I think the photo chosen for "Fellowship..." is a great pick, but I just cannot get over the first photograph on the Big Picture page. It's astonishingly beautiful and so raw. This world is so, so cool.

I was actually on an airplane, on a flight path that goes over Iceland, at the time the darn thing erupted (my rough estimate, based on the time at which it occurred, was that I was somewhere over Hudson Bay or Baffin Island at the time, and heading west). I'm thanking my lucky stars that the eruption happened when it did.

#8 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 04:20 AM:

May I suggest this one featured in the APoD for The Return of the King? (Well, okay, the aspect ratio is wrong for a book cover.)

#9 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 04:57 AM:

Am I too late to post this youTube video about the various pronunciations?

YouTube - Eyjafjallajökull - You're doing it wrong!

#10 ::: Amit ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:04 AM:

Here's some more info on volcanic lightning.

#11 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:12 AM:

Language Log has had a fun discussion (complete with soundclips!) of how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull.

Eyjafjallajökull fail

Being an expat Icelander I keep getting asked to pronounce it, it's fine though.

Also one of the more impressive lightning in volcano plume from this eruption that I've seen is here: Volcano Demon the photographer talks about taking it here

I've been following the activity ever since it was just an earthquake episode that went on for a while. I really feel for the people and farmers back home trying to take care of their animals. The fields are being ruined by ash and their animals are in danger from the poisonous ash, so as interesting and breathtaking as the spectacle can be it would be good to have it over and done with now, or atleast change into a less ashy and destructive phase.

Fortunately there are signs of that, the tephra has built up enough in the crater to isolate it somewhat from the water so we're starting to see lava coming up rather than just ash.

#12 ::: Amit ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 07:10 AM:

Linkmeister @ #5, I had a look at the home page of that site, and the "science" there does not look, um, entirely mainstream.

They start with "Today, nothing is more important to the future and credibility of science than liberation from the gravity-driven universe of prior theory."

#13 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 10:37 AM:

I am impressed by the photos. (And want to turn them into embroidery, or somethng.)

One of the people in my workgroup is stuck in Europe, on his way back from Africa.

#14 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 11:06 AM:

A friend of mine has taken to call the ash cloud "Viking Death Cloud." Those pictures are pert amazing.

Just read the cloud is heading towards North America.

#15 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 11:33 AM:

I've read that some of the photos are ten or fifteen second exposures.

#16 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 11:34 AM:


Pretty amazing, too.

#17 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 11:45 AM:

Linkmeister @ 5 and Amit @ 12:

Amit is right -- that site is seriously crackpot (e.g., "All of astronomy and cosmology in the last fifty years is WRONG WRONG WRONG! Only electricity can explain it all!").

Though the basic point about volcanic lightning being somewhat mysterious is probably correct. Here's an article from the Guardian a few years back,
and some abstracts of recent review articles: here and here (unfortunately, the actual articles are behind paywalls).

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 12:31 PM:

Heresiarch @2, it's gaudy but real. Here's a Big Picture series on the Chaiten volcano in Chile a couple of years back, including photos of spectacular lightning accompanying eruptions.

JPR @3, could you try that link again?

Sica @11, that entry in Language Log helped explain why I can't make out some of the sounds in Eyjafjallajökull: they're related to distinctive sounds that occur in Yorkshire English. No wonder, then; Geordie is the variety of English I have the most trouble making out. I have no idea what preaspirated unvoiced stops sound like. I suspect I literally can't hear them.

#19 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 12:37 PM:

language log rules! lots of native speakers to listen to.

eh-ya-fyat-ya-yer-kulch is about as close as i can get it. (but the final "ch" is a bit like a german or scots "ich".)

#20 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 12:45 PM:

Peter Erwin @17: volcanic lightning being somewhat mysterious

Cosmic cat fur. Speaking entirely out of my hat, here, if the material in the ash is non-conductive, makin' with the rubbing will cause static charge to build up, yes? And you've got a whole half a planet-full of ash, there, with lots of surface area...?

I recall hearing that, during the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, the static electricity in the dust clouds was often enough to kill the crops overnight.

#21 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 12:52 PM:

Teresa, one of my nephews has a slight hearing loss that led to speech problems when he was child--the therapist taught him to say certain sounds he didn't pick up by describing how it would feel to make them. So, would it help to tell you how it feels to make that "tl" sound with my tongue and lips? It won't, I suspect, make it any easier to hear what you're not picking up, because how your hearing works (or doesn't, when it fails to deliver the typical range for someone) isn't going to benefit from that any.

I liked the observation at Language Log that some people who were reporting on/discussing the eruption in the news were simplifying the pronunciation problem (the first "ll" is made easier because a vowel follows; the second is the real killer to say, if you aren't accustomed to it) by referring to the Eyjafjalla glacier--when they weren't resorting to the extreme solution of "the erupting volcano in Iceland".

#22 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 12:58 PM:

TNH @18: Do you happen to have a pronunciation guide (or better yet, an audio clip) for jökulhlaup? (I'm guessing, umm, you-k'l-up, by extension from aehya-f'd-lay-you-k'ch, which is the best I can render what I hear and say when an Icelander as in the video Serge posted says Eyjafjallajökull.)

fidelio @21: A friend of mine was suggesting calling it "the Icelandic Volcano", a la "the Scottish Play".

#23 ::: Sylvia Sotomayor ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 12:59 PM:

The link in #10 re Volcanic lightning comes from, which is a reputable site. Also, good updates and links to more information can be found at the Eruptions blog on Here is the latest update: Airspace begins to open...

#24 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 01:09 PM:

Seeing the lightning-wracked volcano photos leads me to understand how in earlier eras, one might reasonably conclude that the mighty gods were really, really pissed about something or other the puny humans had done, and that they needed to raid their enemies and hang a few score captives as soon as possible by way of apology.

#25 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 01:09 PM:

re 2: When we find out that they also shoot laser death rays, though, I think it will be time to find another, quieter planet.

#26 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 01:31 PM:

I've seen it referred to as Mt Copy-and-paste, referring to the only way most people would ever spell it correctly.

#27 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 01:39 PM:

I think the mighty gods were pissed by what all those wicked dinosaurs got up to. Can't all be humans' faults, not with all those dead dinosaurs just laying there all blameable.

#28 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 01:53 PM:

Not sure what book it would be a cover for, but I absolutely love this darkly foreboding image for something fantasy-esque. In particular, I like the big rock (saying it like that sounds lame, but I swear it's what I mean; just look at the picture).

#29 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 01:56 PM:

I am reminded of a Frank Kelly Freas painting for a story called The Fenris Device.

#30 ::: Joseph M. ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:12 PM:

To continue in the LotR thread: any of the lightning-in-ash-cloud pictures would make a pretty good interpretation of Mount Doom, I think. At least for me, they're a moment of 'novel realized.'

#31 ::: Edgar lo Siento ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:26 PM:

Joseph M., 30,

To continue in the LotR thread: any of the lightning-in-ash-cloud pictures would make a pretty good interpretation of Mount Doom, I think. At least for me, they're a moment of 'novel realized.'

Say, you don't suppose Tolkien had any first hand experience watching a volcano go pop, do you? I recall his depiction of storms in the Misty Mountains in the Hobbit were based on a hiking trip in the Alps.

Alternatively, were there newsreels of volcanic lightning circulating during or before the writing of the relevant parts of LOTR?

#32 ::: Kaja ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:28 PM:

Micah @ 28: It makes perfect sense. I really like the big rock too--the whole thing sets up an "isolated homestead that will have to stand and fight as dark forces descend" plot nicely.

#33 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:36 PM:

Hey, it was late, and the "nobody knows for sure" theory seemed sensible when I read it.

I'm a little surprised I've seen nothing in the press from our Hawai'i geologists and volcanologists, since they have direct knowledge of Kilauea. It just happens to be the only volcano in America that's been in continuous eruption for 20+ years, offering lots of opportunities for study.

#34 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:40 PM:

Kevin @22 You've not quite got it right. In Jökulhlaup the word Jökull is in a different case so only has the one l at the and = it's pronounced as an l rather than the dlh aspirated thingie the sound is in the end of jökull. However Hlaup is aspirated so you have a voiced l that segues into the other kind.

Being Icelandic and it being hard to describe these things I went and did a recording. Those are m4a's just directly off my iphone completely non edited

In this one here I say jökulhlaup and then after a pause Eyjafjallajökull (I figured I might as well add that in since I was doing the recording in the first place).

Then to have it slightly less stilted in this one I say "Það er jökulhlaup í Eyjafjallajökli" aka there's a glacier outburst flood in Eyjafjalla glacier, there's a different case for the word jökull there so the ending's changed. Icelandic is a heavily inflected language.

For the language geeks, it goes:

nom. Jökull
acc. Jökul
dat. Jökli
gen. Jökuls

The definite article is a postfix so "The Glacier" would be:

nom. Jökullinn
acc. Jökulinn
dat. Jöklinum
gen. Jökulsins

NB: There's a bonus performance by another member of my household at the very end of the last clip.

#35 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:42 PM:

Linkmeister, don't you remember last year when Kilauea started spewing ash, that the folks at HVO called in an expert from Mt. St. Helens?

I've been watching the rising and sinking lava pool in Halema'uma'u -- it produces a glow at night that's lovely. Not sure why Pele's throwing a party, but it's definitely a hot time in the old crater some nights.

#36 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:47 PM:

OMG, look at the shape of the ash plume in Big Picture #5. It's Fenton, the Death Sheep From Hell!

#37 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 02:54 PM:


sica, thank you so much!! it's great to get expert advice on this matter, and it's also just great to hear your voice!

thanks also for the declensional paradigms. i have not encountered post-fixed definite articles in an i.-e. language before--way cool.

#38 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:05 PM:

Linkmeister @5:
I dunno if there are any volcanologists in the Fluorosphere.

Me either but the author of this article consulted a vulcanologist named Thorvaldur Thordarson. I read that and thought to myself, "Odin's beard! What a name!" I imagine him as the sort of vulcanologist who stays in shape by throwing hammers and wrestling bears. If you asked him how volcanoes generate lightning he'd say, "because I said so, that's why!" And then he'd laugh and take a bite out of a passing moose.

#39 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:10 PM:

In Iceland, even mild-mannered flower arrangers have names like that.

#40 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:28 PM:

Teresa @39: This web programmer's name directly translates as 'Bear Peacespear son of Bear'.
Yeah. If names aren't biblical, their meanings are often very transparent. Occasionally they're obsolete words, but the meaning will be there.
Thorvaldur means 'Thor's power'

#41 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:37 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 24:

Some of those photos would make good explanations for the story of Ragnarok.

#42 ::: Kaja ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:49 PM:

Bruce Cohen, don't they just! I was looking at #19 in particular and thinking that it looked positively Biblical, and then realised that I was dealing with entirely the wrong set of end-days mythologies. Ragnarok indeed.

#43 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 03:58 PM:

Any pointers to the composition of the gases being blown out? -- I'm not finding anything in a quick Google search. Mostly water and CO2 would be usual, I think, but HCl, sulfur oxides, and others wouldn't be surprising.

#44 ::: Sylvia Sotomayor ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 04:35 PM:

Joel @43:
Here is some official info re Chemical composition of ash and scoria from the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull from the University of Iceland Nordic Volcanological Center.

#45 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 04:44 PM:


high levels of brimstone, as well. probably significant concentrations of hell-fire, say up to 50ppm, and various enantiomorphs of weeping and wailing. look for oxides of nitrogen (no1, no2, noX, and other noxious gases), oxides of gnashing of teeth, and the seven-layered oxide shield of ajax.

the lamentations of the damned should also be detectable at something over 10ppm, as well as demonic mirth, giving off that familiar mercaptan-like odor, and the complex aroma of roasting sinner.

all in all, quite a work-out for the gas chromatograph!

#46 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 04:58 PM:

Mercaptan? Frank Miller teaches that some demons smell like rancid mayonnaise.

#47 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:05 PM:

Sylvia Sotomayor @ 44: Thanks. That page links to a report describing the gases being emitted before things got really hot:

... preliminary observations for 1st and 2nd April:

• The SO2 gas flux produced by the eruption was ~3000 tonnes per day.

• Approximately 70% of the SO2 flux was produced by the fissure which opened on 31st March, with ~30% emitted from the 21st March fissure.

• The flux of HF from the eruption was ~30 tonnes per day.

• Gas compositions emitted from the two eruption fissures were broadly similar, being very rich in H2O (>80% by mole), <15 % CO2 and <3% SO2.

• Strong variations between 5 and 25 in the SO2/HCl ratio were observed at the 31st March fissure on the two measurement days, with higher values observed on 1st April when the activity was apparently more intense than 2nd April.

Not very nice stuff. There's not a lot of fluoride there, but a little goes a long way.

#48 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:08 PM:

Volcanoes of the Lord, bless the Lord, praise and glorify him forever!

Amazing photos.

#49 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:14 PM:

Re: post addendum: Actually, Rush Limbaugh's God did not cause the eruption; Deepak Chopra did. Chopra was meditating on the Hindu god Agni, and guess what, volcanic eruption. You'd think he would have learned after he meditated on Shiva and caused that earthquake in Mexico.

#50 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:27 PM:

I've heard that the Icelandic economy's last wish was for its ashes to be scattered over Europe.

#51 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:27 PM:

Sylvia Sotomayor @ 44: Hmm, I note that ash is nearly 10% iron oxide, with low percents of some other useful metals. Is Iceland set up to refine the stuff? Also, could the ash be useful in restoring soil fertility in various farmed-out places?

#52 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:45 PM:

Because I can't believe no one has linked this yet: appropriate music.

#53 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 05:53 PM:

Lee #52:

I'm partial to this song, myself.

#54 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 06:24 PM:

I thought the viking kittens version of "Wanderer's Song" would actually be quite appropriate....

#55 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 07:43 PM:

Ayatolla Kazem Sedighi came off stronger on logic than Limbaugh did, since he at least assigned divine retribution to the country doing the sinning.

I'm also fairly certain that the religion the Ayatolla follows doesn't actually have a noachide covenant, which always seemed to me to suggest that the God Limbaugh professes to profess doesn't fling natural disasters at people for misbehavior any more. Granted, it could be payback for kashrut violations, but Limbaugh always struck me as a bacon cheeseburger kinda guy so you wouldn't think he'd go there.

#56 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 08:14 PM:

There's a movement starting in response to Segighi's comments. I'm not sure their experiment will actually prove anything to anyone, but I suspect a lot of folks will follow it closely.

#57 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 09:48 PM:

My wife assures me that when St. Helens blew (she was in Yakima) there was sheet lightning across the horizon. Never heard a mechanism then, either.

#58 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 10:33 PM:

Julia@55, assuming you're talking about Islam in general, they consider themselves to be People of the Book along with Jews and Christians and a couple of minor relatives, and their canon includes the Torah and the Gospels, though not the various Talmudic commentaries that talk about the Noachide Covenant. (I don't remember how they feel about the rest of the Old Testament, and in general they reject most of the New Testament.) They split off from Judaism at Abraham. (IIRC, Jacob's brother Esau married Islamic law, for most times and places that Islam has been in power and in civilized-mode, has also recognized that non-believers should be treated with respect, at least the monotheists, though under the Caliphates they had to pay a tax to make up for not paying the charitable tax imposed on believers.

I don't know if Segighi's intolerance is only at, say, P*t R*b*rts*n temperature, or if he's off into W*stb*r*-B*pt*st troll territory, or if he's really just grumbling about how those meddling kids should stay off his lawn, but he's supposed to believe that God won't punish us all with a flood again.

#59 ::: Zora ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 11:01 PM:

The place to go for "all volcanoes all the time" is the Eruptions blog.

Comments seem to be winding down now, but at one point there were hundreds of comments after every Eyjafjallajokull post, some of which were interesting scientific points and many of which were like "Hey, check out that plume that just appeared on the Hrosvelli cam!" Liveblogging the volcano.

There was also an extended discussion sparked by a libertarian who was sure that governments had NO RIGHT to prevent planes from flying through ash clouds.

#60 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 11:18 PM:

This eruption is, I'm afraid, of more than academic interest to some -- including myself and Feorag: we're stuck in Tokyo, as our flight home last Monday was cancelled. Hopefully our new booking should see us taking off on Sunday, but I'm still worried about knock-on effects from the air transport shutdown (and also about the other British fans who were over here for HalCon, whose flights have been affected, and who may be less able to afford an extra week in the world's second-most-expensive city than we are).

#61 ::: DCA ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 11:46 PM:

Question ideally suited to this thread and this audience: there is an SF short story (of the puzzle form) whose solution is that volcanic ash clouds have lightning in them; my memory is that it was by Hal Clement, but it has been a long time since I read it and I could well be wrong. A solution to *this* puzzle would be welcome.

#62 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 12:09 AM:

If we must attribute a divine cause to this eruption, I would like to suggest that it could be not punishment, but merely a lesson in humility.

#63 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 12:35 AM:

heckblazer @ 50: As I heard it, the Icelandic language doesn't use the letter C, so when the Bank of England said send cash....

#64 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 01:12 AM:

Bruce @ 57

Also, regular lightning from horizon to horizon directly overhead. The most amazing lightning storm I've ever seen.

Accompanied by a sulpherous stench, clouds and ash so thick and black that you couldn't see the streetlamp on your side of the street, and a rain of sand, and that was 80 miles downwind of the volcano. Lasted all day, too.

Could've been worse in Europe. At least they're not going to need to shovel the runways before they use them.

Yes, I do have a personal referent for the eruption of Mt. Doom.

#65 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 01:51 AM:

Bill Stewart #58: Jacob's brother Esau married Islamic law

Are there words missing from that phrase? It doesn't make sense to me, unless there is an alternate definition of the word "married" with which I am totally unfamiliar.

#66 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 02:20 AM:

Found on LiveJournal, with no attribution attached:

The good news: we destroyed the Ring.
The bad news: we disrupted a hemisphere's worth of air travel and 2 dozen national economies.

#67 ::: Amit ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 04:08 AM:

Sorry about just posting links, but I keep finding all sorts of cool stuff :

Volcanism across the solar system: Earth

#68 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 08:38 AM:

Charlie @60 --

I seem to recall prolonged[1] Icelandic volcanic eruptions in the 1780s caused at least one major European famine. I don't see any particular reason to believe that has stopped being a risk. While I do hope you and everyone else get home OK, travel disruption isn't the bad outcome.

This year was on track to be the hottest year in history; there would have been a pile of dead pensioners scattered across Europe again, whenever the temperatures peaked in July or August. So if anybody is looking for a divine cause, well, sheltering the aged from the sun under a cloak of soft ash is suitably lacking in effablity.

[1] I originally wrote "major", but, well; the lifetime of the human species does not include any of the actually major Icelandic eruptions.

#69 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 01:15 PM:

FYI, there's some web cams here of the volcano that may or may not work depending on server load:

And this blog seems to have some interesting discussions from actual geologists in the comments.

#70 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 01:37 PM:

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.

This month only, take our 'perish twice' package deal in beautiful Eyjafjallajokull

#71 ::: Sharon ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 02:51 PM:

that entry in Language Log helped explain why I can't make out some of the sounds in Eyjafjallajökull: they're related to distinctive sounds that occur in Yorkshire English. No wonder, then; Geordie is the variety of English I have the most trouble making out. I have no idea what preaspirated unvoiced stops sound like. I suspect I literally can't hear them.

Geordie isn't spoken by Yorkshire folk (it's associated with Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a fair bit further north than God's own county).

#72 ::: Kaja ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 03:41 PM:

Charlie @ 60: I hope that all goes well for you and others trying to make it home. I was at a conference in Cork, Ireland just before the eruption, and was one of the attendees that skedaddled in time. My supervisor and several others were not so lucky, and I've been following their sagas of trains, ferries and constantly-rescheduled flights over the past week. It's definitely been a serious disruption in many people's lives (and I know that academics have it easier than most, in that missing a few days or even weeks of work won't lead to serious loss of wages or being fired--I really feel for those stranded travelers for whom that isn't the case).

Lee @ 66: Hilarious, but also darkly true (well, not the bit about The Ring). I'm interested to see what happens to the airline industry after this, and what the more general economic effects will be for countries that rely on tourism to help drive their economies. My feelings on a permanent/long-term decline in air travel are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, the consumption of resources and pollution involved is really not sustainable in the long run anyway. On the other, semi-affordable air travel is, at the moment, my only way of seeing my extended family.

#73 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 04:43 PM:

Found on Twitter:
Considering referring to the Iceland Volcano as Mt. Eyjafjallacthulhu and see if anyone notices.

Also, an interesting little comparison here: Iceland or Mordor?

Thomas, #70: *snerk* Well done!

#74 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 05:11 PM:

fidelio@21: I encountered the descriptions (and drawings) of how to associate the various bits of my mouth to make various sounds back in college, when I took Russian. I found it very useful then. However, there weren't any sounds in Russian that I just couldn't hear, though there were some I wasn't used to hearing. That plus recordings ought in theory to be enough to help a lot of people get closer to the pronunciation. (Expert coaching and significant time would no doubt be necessary to get much of anybody not a native speaker dead on with the pronunciation.)

#75 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 05:45 PM:

The brand of margarine we buy has a "win an adventure vacation in Iceland" drawing going on. Wonder how many entries they've gotten in the last week, compared to the previous couple of months?

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 05:54 PM:

Well, it would be an adventure of some kind, but probably not quite what they intended.

#77 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 07:15 PM:

I must have missed when the USA took over Iceland, so that a volcano there was in fact related to goings on in the USA.

I have no ability atpronouncing Icelandic names, so recognise the volcano's name solely by the pattern of letters.
And I find it interesting how steady the trace elements remain in the ash and scoria. I wonder how the isotope ratios are? But then there is no reason to know them.

#78 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 09:01 PM:

Sheesh. You'd think if Limbaugh's determined to blame stuff on God's will as seen through his own mean little lens, he could've announced the volcano was punishment for Iceland's lesbian, social-democrat Prime Minister. It's like he hasn't been paying attention to political events outside the U.S. or something.

#79 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 09:12 PM:

Earl@65, that certainly does look like either a line disappeared or a cut and/or paste happened at the wrong time. I'd been saying that "Jacob's brother Esau married Ishmael's daughter", and then starting a new sentence with "Islamic law, for most times and places" etc.

#80 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2010, 09:15 PM:

National Geographic article on the volcano quieting down a bit, with cool picture of a bunch of horses being herded away from the volcanic area.

#81 ::: JPR ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2010, 01:32 AM:

Teresa @ 18
Sorry, that wasn't very clear. I was nominating your second link titled "this one" as a good picture for the Dark Tower series (maybe Wolves of the Calla?)

#82 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2010, 01:51 PM:

Sica @ 34, excellent! (And awww, kitty.) That's really helpful to me. I tend to be good at learning pronunciation by ear, but not particularly great at analyzing the sounds or writing them phonetically, nor reproducing them from phonetic transcription. (I want to transcribe the "hl" in "Jökulhlaup" as something involving an f, but it doesn't quite.)

#83 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2010, 08:48 AM:


There's a part of my (American) anglophone brain that wants to anglicize jökelhlaup as "yokelfloop" - I think the hl -> fl is a shift that English speakers often make (the only other situation I can recall having seen/heard it is in names of Welsh origin, Lloyd -> Floyd).

(I've also spent the last week or so trying to pronounce the Volcano That Shall Not Be Named On The Radio and the results are not pretty.)

#84 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2010, 09:22 AM:

Thena, 82: Shakespeare turned Llewellyn into Fluellen.

#85 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2010, 03:58 PM:

I've taken to reading "Eyjafjallajökull" as "Eyafail"; it's a lot faster, and, though I can pronounce all the syllables at a slow pace when I try ( have no idea how much an Icelandic speaker would giggle if they heard me), it's really a waste of everybody's time for me to try.

#86 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2010, 04:30 PM:

Is a Jökul the same thing as an icle, as in icicle?

#87 ::: Andrew Woode ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2010, 04:53 PM:

Erik @ 86: yes, 'jökull' is cognate with 'icle', Old English 'gicel', according to sources like the Bosworth/Toller dictionary. 'Ey' is equivalent to OE 'ig', 'ey' in some modern place names (Anglesey etc). 'Fjalla' should map to 'fell'. So we could have quite a plausible Anglicisation - assuming the name had been in continuous use - such as Eyfellickle. Of course, no doubt that would by now have generated a bizarre pronunciation which no one would ever guess from the spelling.

#88 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 03:59 PM:

The Oatmeal has their own "etymology" for the name. :-)

#89 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 07:21 PM:

Shakespeare turned Llewellyn into Fluellen.

Just as Lloyd and Floyd are the same name. The Welsh bilateral fricative that begins all these names doesn't exist in English, and is heard as an ell by some English speakers and as an eff ell by others.

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