AP answers your questions on the news, from 1930s underemployment to volcanoes and weather

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ask AP: Volcanoes and weather, underemployment

The volcano in Iceland has made a mess of air travel for the past several days. Is it likely to influence global weather in any way?

Curiosity about the volcano’s impact inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

You can also tweet your questions to AP, using the AskAP hashtag.

Ask AP can also be found on AP Mobile, a multimedia news service available on Internet-enabled cell phones. Go to www.apnews.com/ to learn more.

You answered a question that said unemployment was 24.9 percent at top of Great Depression. And now it is 9.7 percent (and was recently 10.1 percent). However, another estimate of unemployment is how many people have stopped looking for work, dropped off the rolls, work part-time and want to work full-time, etc., and that figure for today is around 16 or 17 percent. What would it have been in the ’30s?

Greg Gibbs


Counting people who have given up looking for work and part-timers who would prefer to be working full-time, the so-called “underemployment” rate is now 16.9 percent. In October 2009, it hit 17.4 percent — the highest on records going back to 1994.

The government didn’t calculate this figure back in the Great Depression.

However, Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and president of the National Association for Business Economics, estimates that the so-called underemployment rate would have been 45 percent in 1933. That’s the year when the unemployment rate spiked to 24.9 percent.

Jeannine Aversa

AP Economics Writer


Is the volcanic ash in the atmosphere likely to affect global weather? Has the ash increased the Earth’s albedo significantly?

Greg Robinson

St. Paul, Minn.

First, a definition: Earth’s albedo is its tendency to reflect sunlight back into space, which would have a cooling effect on climate.

And the answer to both questions is, “No.”

The Iceland volcano simply hasn’t blown enough material into the atmosphere to bring about such a cooling, nor injected it at high enough altitudes to make it hang around long enough. What’s more, material ejected from volcanoes at high latitudes like Iceland’s tends not to spread globally.

And for the record, it’s not the ash itself that can affect climate. Rather, it’s sulfur dioxide that the volcano spits out.

Malcolm Ritter

AP Science Writer

New York

I read in an AP story that Brittany Favre gave birth, making Brett Favre a grandfather. The writer goes on to say that the NFL knows of no current players who are also grandfathers. My question is: Is Brett Favre the first active player ever to become a grandfather? What about in Major League Baseball, where Satchel Paige and others played into their 50s?

Tom Jeffs

Edison, N.J.

To the NFL’s knowledge, Favre is the first active player to become a grandfather.

It is more common in baseball because so many players remain in the sport into their 40s. One famous example is Stan Musial, who became a grandfather in September 1963 at the age of 42, during his final season. In his first at-bat after his grandchild was born, Musial hit a home run.

Rachel Cohen

AP Sports Writer

New York

Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

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