While environmental activists around the world were celebrating Earth Day by racing around in private jets, our planet responded…by unleashing thousands of cubic feet of greenhouse gases.

An ash cloud from the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile that erupted unexpectedly on Wednesday was blowing into Chile and Argentina on Thursday, forcing the cancellation of flights from nearby cities in both countries and blanketing residents in ash.

The volcano, which last had a major eruption in 1961, has belched a spectacular plume of ash and smoke around 15 kilometers (9 miles) into the sky near the popular tourist town of Puerto Varas, some 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) south of Santiago.

Calbuco erupted twice over the last 24 hours and has now paused, but it remains unstable and could erupt again, experts said.

Winds have already carried part of the ash cloud to the city of Chillan, some 400 kilometers south of Santiago, and could reach the capital by the end of the day, said government meteorologist Arnoldo Zuniga.

The well-time volcanic display is not unexpected, as Chile is one of the leading members of the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” Chile has a chain of about 2,000 volcanoes that are peppered across the vast Andes mountain range, forming the second largest volcano chain in the world after Indonesia.

Calbuco dumped thousands of tons of carbon dioxide, methane, and other climate impacting gases into the atmosphere. In an attempt to put volcanic impact on climate into sensible perspective after Iceland’s most recent eruptions, The Australian published “Vitriolic climate in academic hothouse,” by Dr. Ian Plimer, a volcano expert and professor of geology at the University of Adelaide:

…The original source of atmospheric CO2 is volcanoes. The Earth’s early atmosphere had a thousand times the CO2 of today’s atmosphere. This CO2 was recycled through rocks, life and the oceans.

Through time, this CO2 has been sequestered into plants, coal, petroleum, minerals and carbonate rocks, resulting in a decrease in atmospheric CO2.

The atmosphere now contains 800 billion tonnes of carbon as CO2. Soils and plants contain 2000 billion tonnes, oceans 39,000 billion tonnes and limestone 65,000,000 billion tonnes. The atmosphere contains only 0.001 per cent of the total carbon in the top few kilometres of the Earth.

Deeper in Earth, there are huge volumes of CO2 yet to be leaked into the atmosphere. So depleted is the atmosphere in CO2, that horticulturalists pump warm CO2 into glasshouses to accelerate plant growth.

In a video lecture at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Adelaide, Plimer notes that man’s contribution of CO2, SO2, and other greenhouse gases is relatively minor, when compared to the contributions from natural sources.

Calbuco’s emissions also dwarfed the emissions of Air Force One, when the President few to the Everglades for an Earth Day event and burned though 9,180 gallons of evil oil. Obama also burned through a significant amount of taxpayer dollars for a questionably necessary event, as it costs over $200,000/hour to fly Air Force One.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy, was not available for comment.


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