Krakatoa skies: when the Sun turned blue

Just after 4pm, the phones started ringing at the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill. Caller after caller reported seeing the sun. The date was September 27, 1950, and the place was Edinburgh, Scotland. Seeing the sun in Scotland can be a bit of a rarity, but even the Scots knew that the sun should not…

Vesuvius in retrospect

Is this the most famous volcano in the world? The shape is instantly recognisable: the twin peaks give the appearance of an unintended gap where something has been removed. Naples of course has the reputation that anything that is not securely fixed down can quickly and involuntarily change owner, so perhaps a missing bit of…

In the eye of the storm

We live in scary times. As I write this, one hurricane has left destruction in the Caribbean and is bearing down on Florida. A second hurricane is scheduled to clean up what the first one left standing for some of the worst affected islands. Paradise can come to a devastating halt – and was it…

Volcanohistology: when eruptions make a difference

Volcanoes are frightening. They can dramatically alter the local landscape, and change people’s live – normally for the worse. The best place to be is far away. But large eruptions can have wider impacts. The ash can cover regions a continent away, and sulphate aerosols can spread at high altitude around the world. The sulphate…