New Zealand Volcano Erupts After 100 Years Of Silence

A New Zealand volcano dormant for more than a century has erupted, sending up ash clouds, disrupting flights and closing roads. Mount Tongariro, one of three volcanoes in the centre of the North Island, became active just before midnight local time, with reports of loud explosions, spewing rocks and steam.

The 1,978m (6,490 ft) peak is in a national park popular with hikers. No casualties or damage have been reported after the eruption.

Mount Tongariro last erupted 115 years ago, and scientists said they did not yet know if this eruption was a single event or if it signaled the start of more activity. Experts said they were caught by surprise – they had recorded some seismic activity in recent weeks but were not expecting an eruption.

Eruption activity has currently subsided, New Zealand media said. Meteorologists said the ash was blowing east towards the Pacific Ocean. A number of domestic flights on the North Island had been affected by the volcanic activity, Air New Zealand said. Police said highways that had been closed because visibility was affected after the eruption are now open.

Some residents in the vicinity had temporarily left their homes. Officials have not ordered an evacuation, but advised those affected by the ash cloud to stay indoors and close their doors and windows.

Why do you think the long-dormant volcano suddenly erupted unexpectedly? Do you know of other similar instances somewhere else?

Source: BBC News

Image: The Christian Science Monitor

Smog Suspends Flights in Beijing

Thick haze shrouding Beijing forced authorities to cancel flights and close expressways, state media reported Monday. The Beijing Capital International Airport canceled more than 200 incoming and outgoing flights and delayed more than 125 others Monday afternoon, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The state-run China Daily newspaper, citing Beijing’s weather officials, said melting snow made the air wet and caused heavy fog that “crippled traffic, delayed flights and created obstacles in the highways in many places of North China since Saturday.”

Last month, when many official reports in Chinese state-run media referred to the air as being filled with “fog,” the government acknowledged that the haze was due to smog. While “fog alerts” are declared, “Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environment Affairs, said the hazes that have been smothering Beijing are really ‘smog,'” the state-run China Daily reported in November.

Online monitoring from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing described the air quality as “hazardous” at numerous intervals throughout the day Sunday and Monday. Beijing’s municipal environmental protection authority said Monday’s air pollution was “moderate,” Xinhua reported. Chinese state media reports warned of traffic gridlock and poor visibility, but they did not mention health concerns.

Experts have blamed the thick haze on rapid urbanization and industrialization. Beijing, for instance, burned some 27 million tons of coal in 2010, according to state-run media. Pollution is more acute because of the sheer size of the city’s population (17 million) and the rapid speed of its economic growth, experts say.


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