Grimsvötn belchings

Watching BBC news broadcasts over the past few days, I’ve been pleasantly surprised and impressed with the tone and content of UK transport secretary Philip Hammond’s comments on the eruption of the Grimsvötn volcano in Iceland. Not only are forecasters and civil aviation authorities better prepared this year than they were for the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, the level of public information emanating from our political masters is greatly improved.

Philip Hammond is a creature of the Tory right, and it thus pains me to say this. But say it I must. In recent media interviews, Hammond has shown that he has been very well briefed by the relevant experts. In turn, the minister has explained to the public clearly and comprehensibly what we know to be happening with the Grimsvötn volcano, and the risks involved.

Do Hammond’s comments herald a new official approach to public information in times of crisis? I certainly hope so. It’s about time that the government stopped treating the people as uniformly stupid. That label applies to a large minority at most.

Hammond gets it, but no so others. Here’s a post today from the Independent‘s science blog…

Independent: Smaller ash particles will mean less chaos
Oh dear. A number of commenters on the blog have complained about this inversion of scientific reality, but several hours later the erroneous headline stands.

Then there’s our old friend Michael Gobshoyt O’Leary, chairman of Ryanair, whose media line on Grimsvötn can be summed up as ‘What fecking volcano?’. O’Leary’s budget airline has objected to an official injunction to ground flights to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and said that its “verification flight” in the ‘red zone’ of Scottish airspace revealed no evidence of volcanic ash. Aside from the photographically verified fact of ash covering parked cars in the Scottish highlands, the Civil Aviation Authority has insisted that the flight referred to by Ryanair did not enter the affected zone, and in any case carried no measuring equipment.

I imagine that Michael O’Leary’s idea of a scientific experiment is to glance out onto the wing from a severely scratched-up 737 passenger window.

President Obama flies Air Force One.