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Aerial photo shows a plume of ash rising from the volcano in southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier, Monday, April 19, 2010 (Jon Gustafsson)
Aerial photo shows a plume of ash rising from the volcano in southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier, Monday, April 19, 2010 (Jon Gustafsson)

'Eruption disruption' could have long-term benefit Add to ...

Could the "eruption disruption" actually benefit the environment by changing the way we travel?

Iceland's volcano grounded thousands of flights but Judith Patterson, an expert on the impact of fossil fuel combustion in the atmosphere, says the eruption presents an "excellent opportunity."

"Train travel is up in Europe and this shows the benefits of the train, instead of short haul, inter-Europe flights," said Patterson, a professor of geology at Concordia University.

Ms. Patterson says while travelers aren't likely to start boating across the Atlantic, modal shifts are on the horizon, but there will likely be a long-term effect on traveller confidence term effect is likely to be on the psyche.

"It shows the impact that naturally occurring geophysical forces can have (on travel) and it shows the uncontrollability of geological processes," said Patterson, a professor at Concordia University.

It "should be giving us a sober second thought."

Like Ms. Patterson, volcano and climate researcher Alan Robock says the short-term environmental impact of the eruption is of little significance.

But Mr. Robock said the eruption is calling attention to the havoc that small particles in the atmosphere can cause, and the dependence on long-haul transportation.

"A lot of things can be done electronically, like teleconferencing, but you can't transport food," said Mr. Robock, who researches the effects of volcanic eruptions on climate at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

"It has allowed people become aware of this."

The volcanic eruption has emphasized the importance of trains and the potential to veer away from overdependence on aircraft for passenger travel.

"This need not be economically detrimental to the aviation industry because there are (intermodal) partnership opportunities," said Ms. Patterson.

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