Mount Etna

Europe’s most active volcano, Mount Etna, has been hitting the headlines recently after a series of spectacular eruptions. In Etna’s first eruption of 2021, explosive lava fountains reached over 1500 m in one of the most amazing eruptions in decades.

Mount Etna

Mount Etna, Sicily, erupting in February 2021

Mount Etna, located on the island of Sicily, has been largely dormant for the past two years. The stratovolcano (composite) dominates the skyline of the Italian island, where it sits on the eastern coast.

Located between the cities of Messina and Catania, it is the highest active volcano in Europe outside the Caucasus – a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea – and the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps.

The recent activity is typical of a strombolian eruption among the normal activities of the more than 3,300-metre-high volcano. The recent eruption is the strongest explosion in the southern crater since it was discovered in 1971.

On Monday 22nd February 2021, at around 11 pm, the lava fountains, surrounded by gigantic clouds of smoke, exceeded 1,500 metres (4,900ft) in height, while thousands of rock fragments, some the size of fridges, were thrown from the crater into the sky for several kilometres.

Etna is a hyperactive volcano with over 3,500 years of historically documented eruptions. The volcano has been erupting on and off since September 2013. Since September 2019, it’s been erupting from its various summit craters virtually continuously. In December 2020, Etna’s explosive activity and lava output began to spike, and in February 2021, it has been launching fluid lava skywards.

Etna is an unusual volcano in that it can produce explosive eruptions of runny lava and release slower flowing, thick lava flows. Scientists are still trying to work out why this is the case.

The magma from the latest eruption appears to be coming up from deep within the mantle. Extremely hot, fluid magma is rapidly rising through the network of conduits within and below the volcano. However, there is another factor that is contributing to the current explosive eruptions.

There are high quantities of water vapour in Etna’s magma, which makes it explosive. The water does not cool the magma. As the molten magma approaches the surface, the pressure drops, and the bubble of water vapour expands violently, leading to lava being ejected out of the volcano.

Following each explosive lava fountain, less gassy magma lingers just below the vent. This is then cleared when a new volley of gassy magma rises from below. These explosive eruptions are known as volcanic paroxysms.

Authorities have reported no danger to the nearby towns, however, local airports have been temporarily closed, as has the airspace around the volcano. Etna’s last major eruption was in 1992. Despite the explosive nature of the recent eruption, there is no risk to the population, other than from the ash that covers buildings and smoke that can, after a few hours, cause breathing problems. In March 2017 vulcanologists, tourists and a BBC film crew were injured during an eruption when a flow of lava ran into snow, producing superheated steam that sent fragments of rock flying in all directions.

Further reading

For a Volcanologist Living on Mount Etna, the Latest Eruption Is a Delight – Advisory – this article contains expletives (swear words).

In Pictures: Mount Etna eruption lights up Sicily’s night sky

Mount Etna: BBC crew caught up in volcano blast

Mount Etna illuminates night sky with 1,500-metre lava fountain



Thoughts on Catch Up

The gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students, which unfortunately exists anyway, is likely to have widened over the last year. How will the proposed funding of £80 per pupil (for all schools) narrow this gap? The gap will continue to exist if all students access ‘catch up’ (whatever that may be). According to Gavin Williamson, catch up can be academic or support mental health. Disadvantaged children will likely be in greater need of MH support. Meanwhile, those students who have had parental support throughout home-learning may be more likely to receive academic support.

If an extra couple of weeks of summer school is the magic bullet (which I don’t think it is), why has this not been proposed in recent years to narrow the gap?

Imagine being a student returning to school after this challenging period, where many have struggled with isolation and home learning, to be told you now need to ‘catch up’; that this catch up might include losing holiday time and/or spending longer days at school. I know my head would be hitting the table.

The small amount of extra funding allocated to schools, who will be accountable for ensuring students’ catch up’, appears to be a token gesture to show the government is doing something about education. In practice, what will this ‘catch up’ look like? My guess is a cycle of baseline assessments, targeted intervention, more assessments, updating spreadsheets, rinse and repeat.

Might it be better if we were to focus on rekindling a love of learning in our students, along with them experiencing the sense of success in education that comes with effective retrieval practice?

For ourselves, might it be better that we have the opportunity to hone our skills, to use the most effective teaching methods possible (including integrating some of the best of remote learning into our offer). We could sustainably improve the quality of teaching and learning, rather than everyone burning out ‘catching up’? We have an amazing opportunity to reflect on what works well for our students and embed effective practice to support future generations. Or, we could just ‘catch up’.

None of the above will be possible unless we trim down the curriculum to provide a level playing field. Without making changes to the curriculum, we will pile further pressure on students and teachers on the back of the pandemic’s untold impact. To plough through already content-heavy specifications/curriculums as well as catching up on ‘lost’ learning is a recipe for disaster.

The government must take proactive steps; otherwise, we subject students and teachers to time-heavy, reactionary interventions, all in the name of ‘catching up’.

Perhaps we need to draw a line in the sand and allow schools and students time to get back to normal (in addition to implementing Covid testing etc.). Perhaps the government could support students and schools by rationalising the curriculum over the medium term rather than dishing out nominal funds and expecting everyone to do even more to meet an arbitrary curriculum’s needs.

This would allow schools to identify students who have a genuine need for academic and mental health support. Specialist intervention can then be given to those that genuinely need it. This will help narrow the gap by elevating those that are underprivileged or are most in need of support.

We now have the opportunity to be proactive in improving the life chances of all students. Reactionary ‘catch up’ will be counter-productive for everyone involved.


10 tools for home teaching


Anthony explores useful kit to support remote teaching and working from home. 

Looking for tools to support home teaching? Since working on Internet Geography full-time, I’ve picked up some kit proven to be incredibly useful for home working. In the interest of being transparent, this post may contain affiliate links (at no extra cost to you).

Sit-Stand Desk

An electric, ergonomic height-adjustable sit-stand desk helps maximise the health benefits of alternating between standing and sitting while working. Long sitting hours on top of uncomfortable homeworking conditions can pose serious health risks such as high blood pressure, muscle loss and cardiovascular diseases. A sit-stand desk will help reduce your sitting hours and support you to work more efficiently.

Depending on your budget and resources, you’ve got the option to get a fully integrated frame and desk, or pick up a frame and attach a desktop of your own.

Desk frames start from around £179. The Flexispot EC1 is a single motor, heavy-duty steel desk to add your own desktop.

Monitor Stand 

Raise your monitor to a comfortable, ergonomically correct height while maximising desk space with a monitor stand.

Monitor stands range from a simple adjustable desktop stand, such as the AmazonBasics adjustable stand to mounting solutions for one, two and three monitors.

Laptop Stand 

Getting aches and pains from being hunched over your laptop? You might want to consider getting a laptop stand to raise your device to eye level. When combined with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, you can wave goodbye to aches and pains. I’ve got a VMEI laptop stand which I’ve been very impressed with.

Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse

If you’re using a laptop as your primary device, you should really consider investing in a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. A Bluetooth keyboard and mouse allows you to position yourself at a distance from your laptop or desktop, and generally have a much more flexible work area. If you are in the market for a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse you might want to consider the Logitech MK270 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse ComboCombined with a VMEI laptop stand, the days of hunching over the laptop are over!

Headphones and Microphone

Unless you’re in a soundproof room, you are going to be competing with outside sounds. A quality headset will ensure you hear only what’s important – your students. Having had online meetings using both the mic and speakers on my laptop and Bluetooth headphones with in-built microphone, I have to say the headphones were much better. If you have the budget, then consider getting Apple AirPods. If you are looking for a cheaper solution, then the Mpow M30 wireless Earbuds are worth considering.

Second Monitor 

There are many benefits to using multiple monitors, including enhanced productivity, better multitasking, easier cutting and pasting and displaying multiple windows at once. If you’re still using a single screen, you might want to consider moving to an additional screen (or two).

If you’ve already got a tablet that can be used as a second monitor, a gooseneck tablet holder, such as this one by Lamicall, is a great way to hold your tablet and give you the freedom to place it wherever it works for you.

If you are in the market for a cheap second monitor, it’s worth having a look on Facebook Marketplace. Alternatively, if you have a new monitor budget, I would recommend an HP 27f or BenQ GW2280.

Graphics Tablet 

Graphics tablets are great for drawing diagrams, annotating images and providing feedback. My go-to graphics tablet is a Wacom Intuous. However, the cheaper XP-Pen G430S Graphics Tablet is worthy of your consideration.

Visualisers are cameras that can be attached to a computer and used to model answers etc. to students. The benefit of a visualiser is that once it’s set up, there’s no faffing around setting it up each time you want to use it as it’s plug and play. The Okiolabs Okiocam S is well worth considering if you are in the market for visualiser. Alternatively, if size is important the A3 Okiolabs Okiocam T version is also available.

Goose Neck Phone Holder
Not got the budget for a dedicated visualiser? Most smartphones can be used as a visualiser. A Lamical, gooseneck phone holder is a great way to suspend your phone while you model answers and geographical techniques live from your desk.

Desk Mat

Protect your desktop and reduce the noise of an external mouse by investing in a desk mat. I recommend this world desk mat by Jailong.

Ten Golden Rules for Tree-Planting

Scientists have proposed ten golden rules for tree-planting, which they believe is a top priority for all nations this decade.

Experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew say that planting trees is a brilliant solution to tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity; however, the wrong tree in the wrong place can cause more harm than good.

Forests are essential to life on Earth. Not only do they provide habitats to three-quarters of the world’s plants and animals, but they also offer food, fuels and medicines as well as soaking up carbon.

However, forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. An area of pristine tropical rainforest the size of Denmark is lost every year.

Reforestation, the restoration of forests that have recently been lost, could protect biodiversity and help fight global climate change by removing huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There is a range of ambitious tree-planting projects happening around the world to replace lost forests.

The UK Government aims to plant 30,000 hectares (300 sq km) of new forest every year by the end of this parliament.

There is an ambitious project in Africa to grow a green wall of trees spanning 5000 miles (8,048km) across the entire continent, from east to west. The project, which will become the largest living structure on Earth, will help fight the climate crisis and combat desertification.

The Great Green Wall

Planting trees is an essential solution to protecting biodiversity and combatting climate change. However, the process is surprisingly complex. The right trees have to be planted in the right place, if not it can cause more damage than food.

Natural forests, containing a wide range of plants, animals, and fungi, are often replaced by commercial plantations where trees are harvested after a few decades. Afforestation is more effective when people try to recreate forests similar to natural forests and provide benefits to people, the environment and nature, and capturing carbon.

A recent review led by Kew scientists and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) proposes ‘ten golden rules for reforestation’ to boost benefits for people and the planet. The rules are:

  1. Protect existing forest first
  2. Work with local people
  3. Maximise biodiversity recovery to meet multiple goals
  4. Select the right area for reforestation
  5. Use natural forest regrowth wherever possible
  6. Select the right tree species that can maximise biodiversity
  7. Make sure the trees are resilient to adapt to a changing climate
  8. Plan ahead
  9. Learn by doing
  10. Make it pay

An overview of each rule is summarised in the diagram below.

10 Golden Rules for Reforestation

Further details of each step are available on the Kew Gardens website.

Further reading

10 Golden rules for restoring forests – RBG Kew

Ten golden rules for reforestation to optimize carbon sequestration, biodiversity recovery and livelihood benefits – Report

Support for Geography in the News Assignment 

Describe the distribution of forest change shown on the choropleth map

This question is asking you to describe the distribution (spread) of forest change shown on the choropleth (shading) map. As this is an interactive choropleth map you can click on the colours in the scale to highlight the patterns. Describing patterns on a choropleth map is easy using the TEA tool as it provides a structure to your answer. TEA stands for trend, examples and anomalies.


To begin with, it is useful to include an opening statement about the general distribution (pattern/spread) shown on the map. You could do this by asking yourself does the choropleth map show the global annual change in forest area in 2015 even or uneven?

Paragraph starter: The global annual change in forest area in 2015 is even/uneven.


Next, you need to discuss the patterns on the map giving examples. You could consider:

  • What continents/countries are experiencing a decline in forest area?
  • Are the countries mainly HICs, NEEs or LICs?
  • Are they near the equator or further away?
  • Are they inland or coastal?
  • What continents/countries are experiencing an increase in forest area?
  • Are the countries mainly HICs, NEEs or LICs?
  • Are they near the equator or further away?
  • Are they inland or coastal?


Finally, consider any patterns/examples that stand out. In this example, are there any HICs (wealthy countries) that are experiencing high levels of decline in forest cover – top tip – check out North America!)? Are there any LICs/NEEs that are experiencing high levels of forest cover increase (have a look at Asia!)?

Creating an exam paper in Microsoft Forms

Internet Geography Plus subscriptions have funded the development of these free resources. Please consider taking out a low-cost subscription to help us develop more content for Internet Geography. 

Microsoft Forms quizzes are a simple and useful way for students to complete exam questions and papers. The benefit of using Microsoft Forms quizzes for exam questions is that it’s possible to automate some of the marking and feedback. In addition to this, marking is simplified because all the answers are in the same place, saving time when reviewing answers. Finally, Microsoft Forms provides an overview of performance that is useful for evaluating a group of students’ performance and identifying areas that need revisiting.

I’ve set up an example exam paper covering natural hazards using the 2018 AQA GCSE geography paper, which you can view and copy across to your Microsoft account by clicking the links below.  The support videos below explain how the form was set up (video 1) and how Microsoft Forms can mark the paper, allocate scores, and provide personalised feedback (video 2).

If you’ve developed an exam paper in Microsoft Forms and are happy to share it with the wider community, please drop us an email.

Link 1: The exam paper how the students will see it

Link 2: Copy the exam paper over to your Microsoft Forms account (it is unlikely the images will copy across so you may need to add these yourself)

Video 1 – Setting up an exam paper in Microsoft Forms

Video 2 – Marking, allocating scores and providing feedback

Coming Soon

Video 3 – Review the performance and export to Excel

Coming soon!

Storm Christoph

Storm Christoph is the third named storm of the 2020/2021 season and the first of 2021, following Storm Aiden on October 30 and Storm Bella on Boxing Day 2020.

Storm Christoph was a slow-moving Atlantic depression, which brought a variety of weather to the UK between the 19th and 21st of January 2021. The storm system moved across the UK from west to east.

Unlike the low-pressure systems that often affect the UK at this time of year, Storm Christoph’s main threat was heavy rainfall, rather than strong winds.

The map below shows flood warnings and the places with the most rainfall from Storm Christoph.

Storm Christoph rainfall and flood warnings

Storm Christoph rainfall and flood warnings – source

Preparation for Storm Christoph

An Amber National Severe Weather Warning for rain was issued for parts of northern and central England. Separate Yellow warnings for rain, wind, snow and ice covered large areas of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Environmental Agency and Met Office issued a series of warnings about Storm Christoph.

Flood Guidance Statement issued by the EA and Met Office

Flood Guidance Statement issued by the EA and Met Office

More than 400 flood warnings and alerts were issued across England. In Wales, 15 flood warnings and 53 flood alerts were in place.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, advised people to act if instructed to evacuate.

Storm Christoph flood warnings

Local authorities issued warnings to local residents.

Several steps were taken to prepare areas previously affected by flooding. Fishlake, near Doncaster, was one of the worst affected areas in floods in November 2019. On Tuesday 19th January, residents readied themselves for their village to flood a second time in just over two years.

Many villagers had only been able to return to their homes for a matter of weeks, and some still haven’t managed to move back.

Doncaster Council said it had delivered 40,000 sandbags around the area since a flood alert was first issued.

Over 200 council staff in Fishlake joined with residents and volunteers to distribute sandbags days before Storm Christoph arrived, with each home receiving up to twenty.

A major incident was declared in South Yorkshire on Monday, with more than 40,000 sandbags distributed in flood-risk areas and a barrier built around a Covid vaccination centre in Mexborough.

In South Yorkshire, some roads were closed due to flooding, but no major incidents were reported. Flood wardens said improved flood defences and a changing forecast lessened the storm’s impact.

What were the effects of Storm Christoph?

Areas of the UK was hit by heavy rain, snow and flooding that has led to towns and villages being cut off and a major incident declared in South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

The northwest of England and the north of Wales were some of the worst affected areas as properties submerged as rivers burst their banks, and drainage systems failed to cope with the torrential downpours brought by Storm Christoph.

The Cheshire village of Lymm, a village of 12,000 people located 7 miles away from Warrington, experienced flooding. However, this was not on the same scale as the floods of November 2019. Although fewer than a dozen homes were submerged in the end, for many of those, it was the second such disaster in less than two years.

Around 400 homes were flooded as a result of Storm Christoph, the Environment Agency has confirmed.

Around 26,000 homes were protected from the various flood defence assets distributed by the Environment Agency. 600 people were on the ground, putting up temporary barriers, using pumps in Manchester areas with particular flood challenges.

Firefighters and police evacuated 2,000 homes and businesses in south Manchester on January 20 with 3,000 properties said to be at risk.

Houses on Walmer Street in Abbey Hey, Manchester fell into a giant sinkhole following heavy rainfall.

Manchester sink hole

Manchester sinkhole

In Maghull in Merseyside and Ruthin, North Wales, families were also forced out of their homes due to rising floodwaters.

Travel suspensions were placed on services from Carlisle to Skipton or Maryport, all destinations from Rotherham Central, and between Manchester and Newton le Willows.

Rail services between Warrington Central and Liverpool Lime Street, Altrincham to Chester, and Wigan to Southport were also suspended. Rail services between Leeds and York via Garforth were disrupted due to flooding in the Garforth area, with bus services replacing trains throughout the day.

In South Wales, water built up in a mine shaft causing a “blow out” that flooded properties in Skewen, Neath Port Talbot. At least 80 people had to leave their homes in the village after flooding.

North Yorkshire County Council said more than 15,000 sandbags were at the ready around the county.

Flood plains near Cawood in North Yorkshire, have been storing vast amounts of water as rivers rose rapidly following Storm Christoph’s heavy rainfall. These are shown in the video below.

A Covid-19 testing centre at Meadowhall in Sheffield was closed until Friday 22nd January due to the risk of flooding.

As water moves through drainage basins, monitoring is ongoing in low-lying areas.

Insurance losses from Storm Christoph are predicted to be between £80million and £120million.


How do I install Mote to give verbal feedback in Google apps?

Mote is a Chrome extension that allows you to provide verbal feedback in Google Docs, Sheets and Slide. To install Mote, launch Chrome (if you don’t have it installed you can get it here), then go to the Chrome web store. Type Mote into the search bar of the Chrome store (top left). When you’ve found Mote click the install button and follow the on-screen instructions.

Install Mote

Once you’ve installed the plugin open either a Google Sheets, Docs or Slides file. You will see a new Mote icon (circled in red below).

More icon

Click the Mote icon. Click next when the pop-up below is displayed.


Next, you need to grant access to your microphone so voice messages can be recorded.


If you’re using a Mac, you will be prompted to allow Google Chrome to access your microphone. Click OK.


The confirmation message below will be displayed when your microphone is connected. Click Next.


You now need to grant Mote access so Sign in with your Google account.

Click Allow to grant permissions.


Click Allow.


A confirmation message will then be displayed.


Return to Google Slides, go to the slide you want to add your voice message to and then click the Mote icon. A window, like the one below, will pop-up. Click the icon in the pop-up and record your message.

Press the stop button. Then click INSERT.

You can also insert a voice message as a comment. Simply click the comment icon, then click the Mote icon.

Creating an exam paper in Google Forms

Internet Geography Plus subscriptions have funded the development of these free resources. Please consider taking out a low-cost subscription to help us develop more content for Internet Geography. 

Google Forms quizzes are a simple and useful way for students to complete exam questions and papers. The benefit of using Google Forms quizzes for exam questions is that it’s possible to automate some of the marking and feedback. In addition to this, marking is simplified because all the answers are in the same place, saving time when reviewing answers. Finally, Google Forms provides an overview of performance that is useful for evaluating a group of students’ performance and identifying areas that need revisiting.

I’ve set up an example exam paper covering natural hazards using the 2018 AQA GCSE geography paper, which you can view and copy across to your Google Drive by clicking the links below.  The support videos below explain how the form was set up (video 1) and how Google Forms can mark the paper, allocate scores, and provide personalised feedback (video 2). The final video illustrates how to review the cohort’s performance taking the paper and export the results into Google Sheets.

If you’ve developed an exam paper in Google Forms and are happy to share it with the wider community, please drop us an email.

Link 1: The exam paper how the students will see it

Link 2: Copy the exam paper over to your Google Drive (it is unlikely the images will copy across so you may need to add these yourself, this is explained in video 1 below).

Video 1 – Setting up an exam paper in Google Forms

Video 2 – Marking, allocating scores and providing feedback

Video 3 – Review the performance and export to Google Sheets

Coming soon!

How does washing your clothes lead to plastic pollution in the Arctic?

Every time we do the laundry, hundreds of thousands of tiny fibres – known as microfibres – are washed off our clothes, down the drain and into the environment.

Recent research has found high levels of microplastic fibres polluting the Arctic Ocean. These fibres most likely come from washing synthetic clothes in Europe and North America.


In Canada, the Ocean Wise Conservation Association found microplastics in 96 of 97 seawater samples taken from across the polar region. Ninety-two per cent of the microplastics found are fibres, and 73% originate from polyester clothing. The majority of the samples collected were from 3-8 metres below the surface, where much marine life feeds.

The 3-8m layer of seawater is a biologically important area where we find phytoplankton, zooplankton, small fish, big fish, seabirds and marine mammals, looking for food. Large animals such as turtles, albatross, seals and whales die through eating plastic, and there is no reason to think it was different for the smaller ones.

Another study by Ocean Wise in 2019, estimated 3,500tn plastic microfibers from clothes washing in the US and Canada end up in the sea each year; the equivalent in weight to over 20 blue whales!

As well as the fibres found at the North Pole, plastic exists at the deepest point on Earth, the Mariana Trench, and Mount Everest’s peak. Plastic injures wildlife when it is mistaken for food. People also consume microplastics through food and water and breathe them in. However, the health impact of this consumption is not currently known.

Most of the water that flows into the Arctic comes from the Atlantic Ocean. The new research has found more microplastic fibres nearer the Atlantic, than the Pacific Ocean. As you can see from the map showing ocean current below, the North Atlantic Drift transports microplastics released into the North Atlantic.

Major ocean currents

Major ocean currents

What is the Impact of ocean life ingesting microplastics?

Research by The University of Exeter has shown that tiny marine animals called zooplankton, a vital food source for many larger animals like fish and whales, can eat microplastics. When Zooplankton eat microplastics they consume less of their normal food, meaning they get less energy from their diet. This leads to less energy for growth and reproduction. At this point, the microplastics enter the food chain.

As larger animals consume plankton, the concentration of plastic increases. Chemicals attached to microplastics can increase liver toxicity and other pathological changes.

Microfibers fill the bellies of fish, and, while the plastic remains in their guts, the toxins that microfibers contain can migrate into fishes’ flesh, consumed in turn by humans. Researchers found that about 25 percent of individual fish and 67 percent of all species intended for human consumption contained plastic debris, the majority being microfibers.

There is the potential for microfibers to have a negative impact on the fishing industry in the future. Catches may decline due to a breakdown in the ocean food chain. Additionally, demand for seafood may reduce as people become more aware of the impacts of microfibers.

There are, however, economic opportunities in finding solutions to reducing microfiber emissions in the design of innovative laundry traps.

What can we do to reduce the release of microplastic into the sea?

We all have a role to play in reducing microplastic levels in our oceans. As consumers, we can: 

  • wash clothes less often (give them the sniff test before putting them in the wash!)
  • air dry clothes rather than using the tumble drier. This is because tumble drying weakens clothes and makes them more likely to shed microplastics when washed.
  • choose clothes made from natural fibres such as cotton
  • fill our washing machines (the more room clothes have the more likely microfibres will break off)

Drowning in Plastic Video Questions

Nicola Sutton has kindly shared a Microsoft Form containing questions relating to Drowning in Plastic. This has also been copied across to Google Forms. copy the questions across to your Microsoft or Google account using the links below.

Microsoft Forms Drowning in Plastic Video Questions

Google Forms Drowning in Plastic Video Questions