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Iceland's Long Shadow

The recent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull is not the first time Iceland has thrust itself upon the European and global stage.

Indeed, this small Nordic country with only 315,000 inhabitants has played a remarkably prominent role at important junctures of history. Four of these periods come to mind:

1) The Icelandic eruption of 1783 led to "the year without summer" for much of Europe and the resulting famine contributed to the civil unrest in France. Some historians go so far as to say the French Revolution was a direct result of the volcanic eruption on Iceland.
2) The invasion and occupation of Iceland in World War II marked the transfer of naval power from the United Kingdom to the United States. While Great Britain invaded the island in 1940 to preempt a German invasion, the British quickly recognized they were unable to maintain their occupation force on the island. By 1941, American forces were occupying the island, and the new hegemon in the neighborhood was quickly recognized.
3) The Cod Wars between Iceland and Great Britain was one of only two major conflicts between NATO countries and nearly led to a full-fledged war between the two island nations. The conflict centered on fishing rights in Iceland's coastal waters and eventually led to international law regarding fishing rights and the EU's Common Fisheries Policy. Lingering concern about Icelandic fishing rights continues to be the biggest reason why Iceland remains outside the EU.
4) Beginning in 2003, Icelandic banks and investors were on the cutting edge of a global financial sector that used complex models, leveraging, and financial products to make enormous profits. But by 2006, it was already becoming apparent that the incredible explosion of the Icelandic banking sector was not sustainable and the island was on the leading edge of the global economic meltdown.

And now, citizens on both sides of the Atlantic have again remembered the island in the middle of the North Atlantic. 
It is just unfortunate that the lovely mid-Atlantic country always seems to remind us of its presence in such unpleasant ways.

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Joe Noory on :

Actually, the 1816 eruption of Mount Tambora is cited as the source of volcano-caused "the year without a summer". As for the hegemon one should have been worrying about, I believe that was more broadly thought of in 1941 as Germany.

Joe Noory on :

Oh, and I've been to Hekla and back...

Pat Patterson on :

Bjork may have to get a real job.

John in Michigan, US on :

Everyone please post links to humorous videos of news readers or other people failing to say the name of the volcano correctly! In this case, I don't see why we should limit the videos to English, could sound funny when mispronounced in any language. My favorite, includes one allegedly correct pronunciation: Eyjafjallajökull - You're doing it wrong!

John in Michigan, US on :

Erp, this is the link for "[url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jq-sMZtSww]Eyjafjallajökull - You're doing it wrong![/url]"

Andrew Zvirzdin on :

I wanted to point out this interesting article on the volcanic eruption that highlights just how connected the global economy has become: who knew an arctic island could put Kenyan day laborers out of work? http://pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/98046/

John in Michigan, US on :

Great link. Four words: Bring Back the Zeppelins! (Although, I'm told that even propeller engines are vulnerable to volcano dust. But, at least they wouldn't crash land when the engines fail.)

John in Michigan, US on :

Alaska really, really depends on aviation. There are many small and medium-sized towns that, literally, are not connected to anything via road or navigable water -- the only regular transport in or out is via air. Has Alaska Airlines already solved the volcano problem? "[airlines] had a stake in reopening airspace as rapidly as possible — but they were stymied by confused and panicked government policymakers. Officials relied on generic computer models rather than sending up test planes from day one to more precisely map the ash cloud in real time. "That’s what Alaska Airlines has been doing ever since it was nearly closed by the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_St._Helens]Mount St. Helens[/url] eruption 30 years ago. Since volcanoes are an ever-present threat to Alaska’s operations, it has well-developed protocols for coping with ash clouds in a safe manner..." [url=http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/22/the-new-age-of-travel-blimps-and-beyond/#robert]Read the rest[/url] at the NY Times blog (might be a little slow to load because of Google maps real-time air traffic widget on the page.) My understanding is that, eventually, UK (and other?) authorities started flying test planes into the ash cloud. I suspect the Euro aero industry-regulator complex is still trying to figure out what the results mean. In Alaska, apparently they have already worked it out, although on a smaller scale. Alaskans still have the frontier spirit, so they are somewhat more tolerant of aircraft accidents. Still, their accident rate is quite low, considering that they have many threats to aviation besides volcanoes. Even when there's no volcano, there's so much we could do to make air travel more safe and efficient: [url=http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-nextgen_14bus.ART0.State.Edition1.4117a06.html] Satellite-based air traffic control system slow to get off ground[/url] Here is another area that Europe could leapfrog ahead of the US, if it can find the magic formula for innovation. However, I fear Europe is still in love with heavily unionized, high-speed rail. Generally, rail sees a more efficient air transport system as a threat.

Marie Claude on :

while Nato flights didn't stop (from 12/04 to 22/04 there was 60 Nato jets training for the new anti-missils shield program. Bizarre, Russia didn't close her airports, and Medvedev was the only foreign president that came to Kaczynsky burial ceremony by plane, whereas the western europen leaders declined to go ; a shame ! even if Kaczynski was a trouble maker in EU, for the sake of the Polish population, our politician elites should have gone to honnor the president of Poland ! Russia didn't forget the good manners ! http://www.usafe.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123199666 http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_VOLCANO_JETS_DAMAGED?SITE=NYMID&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT In Defense Of The Met Office: http://wp.me/p7y4l-4T8 http://www.prisonplanet.com/eu-wants-united-airspace-after-ash-cloud.html EU wants united airspace after the ash cloud bye bye les privilèges corporatistes

Pat Patterson on :

That article was printed prior to the volcanic eruption as by the 16th all NATO and US air bases were either closed or some outside of the cloud were flying routes over the Med to resupply in the ME. The only planes still flying over the North Atlantic and Europe from the 16th to the 22nd were four AWACS out of Spain which could fly well above the cloud. http://www.military.com/news/article/volcanic-ash-grounds-some-military-flights.html?ESRC=topstories.RSS

Marie Claude on :

So if one organisation was well aware of the ash cloud danger, it's the Air Force, this si a slap into the face of the cloud deniers !

John in Michigan, US on :

Cloud deniers! Excellent :-) But I am just a humble cloud skeptic.

Marie Claude on :

t'em are very skeptic: http://tinyurl.com/27gzmzd look like that some were a bit lazy

John in Michigan, US on :

Yes, it sounds like a question of protocols. The EU has a standard for the max amount of ash; measurements seem to show that the ash levels were easily below that level; but no bureaucrat could be found to sign the document certifying this! In the US, our FAA has a very "effective" system -- someone has to die before there is a change. So, perhaps after a stranded passenger has a heart attack, there will be a change and Europe can return to the air. I think our FAA is weak in Alaska, or maybe it makes exceptions for them. If Alaska had the same rules as the rest of the US, the state would come to a halt.

Pat Patterson on :

No, most passenger jets fly at 25-30K ft. which is well within the cloud while AWACS fly considerably higher. Plus military traffic can be diverted to clear airports after being refueled while there is no such system available to passenger planes. What are "...cloud deniers?"

Marie Claude on :

well, I have read so many comments that contest the "precautionality principle" adopted by almost all the European countries.

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