Volcano emitting 150-300,000 tonnes of CO2 daily: experts

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Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano is emitting between 150,000 and 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per day, a figure placing it in the same emissions league as a small-to-medium European economy, experts said on Monday.

Assuming the composition of gas to be the same as in an earlier eruption on an adjacent volcano, "the CO2 flux of Eyjafjoell would be 150,000 tonnes per day," Colin Macpherson, an Earth scientist at Britain's University of Durham, said in an email.

Patrick Allard of the Paris Institute for Global Physics (IPGP) gave what he described as a "top-range" estimate of 300,000 tonnes per day.

Both insisted that these were only approximate estimates.

Extrapolated over a year, the emissions would place the volcano 47th to 75th in the world table of emitters on a country-by-country basis, according to a database at the World Resources Institute (WRI), which tracks environment and sustainable development.

A 47th ranking would place it above Austria, Belarus, Portugal, Ireland, Finland, Bulgaria, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland, according to this list, which relates to 2005.

Experts stressed that the volcano contributed just a tiny amount - less than a third of one percentage point - of global emissions of greenhouse gases.

Total emissions by six heat-trapping gases in 2005 were more than 36 thousand million tonnes (36 gigatonnes) as measured in CO2, according to the WRI index.

"It's not of any significance compared to the anthropogenic [manmade] budget," said Kjetil Toerseth, director of regional and global pollution at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research.

Specialists cautioned those who believe the eruption is good for climate change as carbon-emitting jetliners are unable to take to the skies.

According to the European Environment Agency (EAA), daily emissions from the aviation sector in the 27 nations of the European Union are around 440,000 tonnes per day.

Not all of this is saved because of the volcanic eruption, said the sources.

Firstly, some airports in southern Europe have remained open for traffic.

In addition, carbon is emitted when passengers stranded by air travel use the train, bus, car or ferry as an alternative.

And many flights in, to and from Europe are merely being deferred until the crisis is over.

"Whether the emissions occur now or three weeks from now does not change things fundamentally," said Herve Le Treut, a French climatologist.

"Another point is that these emissions are of long duration. CO2 is dangerous because it stays in the atmosphere for about a hundred years. Its short-term effect is not the big problem."

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