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Volcanic Ash from Iceland, and Sediment Time Machines

This podcast from the Planet Earth Online collection and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) looks at how the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland gave scientists an unparalleled opportunity for research, and why sediment from rivers like the Thames can act like time machines to bygone eras.

On 14 April 2010, Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted unexpectedly and violently. The ash plume it created headed south, wreaking havoc on Britain's and eventually much of Europe's airspaces.

The volcano disrupted millions of people's journeys; but the cloud provided many scientists with an unprecedented opportunity to research volcanic ash in more detail than they could have dreamt of in a natural, evolving experiment. Sue Nelson goes to Oxford University to meet two of those scientists, who explain what the volcano meant for them.

Also in this podcast, Richard Hollingham finds out that river sediment isn't just useless, brown sludge. Sediment is like a time machine, holding a wealth of information about the past. Chemicals around at any given time eventually build up in river sediments, revealing how the urbanisation of cities like London has changed over time.

A transcript of the recording is provided to assist those who find text-based content more accessible than audio.

This podcast is dated 19 April 2011.

NERC is a part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) partnership of research councils.

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