I don't normally write on news that are on the main pages of all media, but the unpredictable consequences of the infamous volcano Eyjafjallajokull really deserve at least a few lines.
First of all, I admit I am guilty of copy-pasting the name of the volcano. Really it will take me more than just a few days to learn to spell that Icelandic word and therefore I have decided to call it simply Eyja, which I hope doesn't offend it.
And anyhow, it was just a matter of time before it was nicknamed somehow, yes or yes?
Impressive image of Eyja borrowed from Al Jazeera
Anyhow, Eyja's polluting power is such that in just a few days of eruption, otherwise not too destructive, it has created such an unprecedented chaos in modern globalized Europe that wealthy men are begging in Warsaw for a ride back home and airlines are rumored to be preparing to fire personnel. Meanwhile the roses from Kenya or the kiwis from Chile can't reach their European markets and the ash cloud has already reached East Asia causing widespread disruption there as well.
But this is probably only the beginning. Vulcanologists can't predict the duration of the eruption but, in any case, so far has only got stronger and stronger. It could be just two days more... or it could be two years. Nobody knows.
The closest precedent is that of Laki volcano, also in Iceland, in 1783, which lasted for eight months and historians link to crop failure and being one of the triggers of the French Revolution.
There are indeed no precedents for such a widespread closure of air space. The closest case experts can think of is the brief closure of US air space after 9/11. But even that is not comparable: now there's no way to predict how will be the situation just a few days ahead... though the most likely is that it will remain the same or even worsen.
And it is affecting the economy: businessmen can't fly to meetings and fairs (even presidents and prime ministers had to suspend their journeys), some imported food will soon become scarce in your local supermarket and some of the most profitable sectors, such as pharmaceutics, rely on air transport heavily. According to The Guardian, even if only 1% of the volume of British foreign trade is done by airplane, it is nothing less than 30% of its exporting value!
Add up all the many disruptions and their cumulative chain effects in the context of an already very severe economic crisis... and let your imagination fly - because there are no precedents, really.
Of course Eyja could stop tomorrow... but that's not very likely to happen.