Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Volcanoes

I suppose depending upon where you live, this volcano thing has completely affected your life, or maybe it hasn't at all.  I imagine for my family in Delaware, it doesn't have much impact, but here in Dubai (yes, I've bid adieu to Africa and returned to the Middle East) there are over 11,000 crew that fly with Emirates Airlines.  In addition to that, 80% of the people who live in Dubai are ex-pats, which means they're not from here.  I know quite a few people who have been affected by this whole thing.

The Scream by Edvard Munch, 

But while most people are complaining, I found this great article at the New York Times about a volcano in Java that changed the world in 1883.  Simon Winchester writes, "Where Iceland has caused shock, Java resulted in awe. And where Eyjafjalla’s ashes seem to have cost millions in lost business, Krakatoa’s dust left the world not just a remarkable legacy of unforgettable art but also spurred a vital discovery in atmospheric science."

Winchester continues:

The skies in the fall of 1883 became weirdly changed. The moon turned blue, or sometimes green. Firefighters in New York and elsewhere thought they saw distant fires, caused by clouds of boiling dust. The vivid ash-tinged sunsets, and the post-sunset horizon rainbows of purple and passion fruit and salmon-red, were said to be the most memorable.
Painters in particular did their best to capture what they saw. An obscure Londoner named William Ascroft, astonished by the nightly light show along the Thames, turned out a watercolor every 10 minutes, night after night, working like a human camera. More than 500 Krakatoa paintings survive him. “Blood afterglow,” he jotted down on one canvas, noting the magic done by refractive crystals of dust; “Amber afterglow,” on another.
Grander artists, like Frederic Church of the Hudson River School, were spurred to action too. In December, four months after the Javanese blast, Church hurried up from Olana, his Moorish castle near Poughkeepsie, to Lake Ontario, and one perfect evening caught the vivid crepuscular purples over the ice on Chaumont Bay, knowing full well — as science already did — that it was a volcano 10,000 miles away that had painted the sky for him.
And one even more famous painting speaks of Krakatoa as well: recent research suggests that Edvard Munch a decade later painted “The Scream” while remembering a night in Oslo that had been much affected by the volcanic dust. Indeed, the climatic records show that the swirling orange skies behind the terror-stricken face match perfectly those recorded that winter in southern Norway.

How cool is that?  But wait, there's more.  "It left a lasting effect on science as well.

The heavier dust from Krakatoa slowly fell to earth, coating ships and cities thousands of miles away. But the micron-sized particles from the volcano’s mouth did not fall back at all. Instead, they were carried ever upward, and ended up floating around the world for years, on streams of globe-girdling winds that were not then even known to exist. 

Weather-watchers, carefully noting just when certain skies in certain cities were inflamed and colored by the passing high-altitude dust clouds, produced a map showing just how these wind currents moved around the world. The first name they used for the phenomenon was the “equatorial smoke stream.” Today it is, of course, the jet stream — a discovery that remains perhaps the most important legacy of Krakatoa.

I'm curious to see how this volcano will effect things on the global scale, but in the meanwhile, I'm looking forward to the sunsets.  And, I'm reminded that God is in control.



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