Volcanic Eruptions and Climate Change

Volcanic Volcanic eruptions and Climate Change


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Scientific findings and assorted published literature suggest that volcanic eruptions have long been associated with fluctuations in clime ( Robock, 2000, p. 191 ) . In fact, conclusive grounds has been discovered in the sea floor South of Haiti that confirm the happening of multiple monolithic volcanic eruptions about 55,000,000 old ages ago in the Caribbean Basin that caused the “most dramatic climatic alterations ever” , ( “ Ancient Eruptions May Have, ” 1998, p. 6 ) . Furthermore, dating back to 2000 old ages ago, the Mount Etna eruption of 44 BC was observed by Plutarch and others to hold caused the dimming of the Sun and the shriveling of harvests that subsequently resulted to famine in Egypt and Rome, ( Forsyth, 1988 ; cited in Robock, 2000, p. 191 ) . A survey conducted in portion by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) , found that “volcanic eruptions in high-latitudes can greatly change clime and distant river flows, including the Nile” , ( NASA, 2006 ) . This paper will analyze the inextricable nexus between volcanic eruptions and climatic alteration ; and thereby find the impacts of volcanic eruptions on clime alteration. First, this paper will show the major volcanic eruptions of the past 250 old ages and depict their climatic impacts. Following, it will explicate the mechanism by which volcanic eruptions produce climate alteration. Finally, it will show its decision which is a palingenesis of the thoughts antecedently discussed.

Major Volcanic Volcanic eruptions

Table 1 below shows the world’s largest eruptions of the past 250 old ages as measured by the volcanic exclusivity index and ( VEI ) , the dust head covering index ( DVI/Esoap) and the ice nucleus volcanic index ( IVI ) . The Grimsvotn eruption in Iceland in 1783 generated considerable impacts “all that summer in Europe” , ( Franklin, 1784 ; Grattan et Al 1998 ; cited in Robock, 2000, p. 192 ) . The Tambora eruption of 1815 produce a chilling consequence on the clime, ( Bradley and Jones, 1995, p. 305 ) ; which brought in a “year without a summer” , ( Stommel and Stommel, 1983 ; Stothers, 1984 ; Robock, 1984a, 1994 ; Harington, 1992 ; cited in Robock, 2000, p.192 ) . Hoyt and Schatten ( 1997, p 207 ) , explain that “of all modern eruptions, Tambora is the largest, directing about 40 three-dimensional kilometres of ash into the ambiance with a plume making every bit high as 40 kilometers” . The impacts of the Tambora eruption have a planetary consequence, in that it altered normal climes. For illustration, it resulted to a “hot summer in the Mississippi Valley” and temperatures of “about 1°C or more below normal in most of Europe” and “about 1°C above normal in St. Petersburg, Russia” , ( t Hoyt and Schatten, 1997, p. 207 ) . Other volcanic eruptions which produced wide-reaching climatic impacts are described below by Robock ( 2000, p. 192 ) :

The most extended survey of the impacts of a individual volcanic eruption was carried out by the Royal Society, analyzing the 1883 Krakatau eruption, in a attractively produced volume including water-colors of the volcanic sundowns near London [ Symons, 1888 ; Simkin and Fiske, 1983 ] . This was likely the loudest detonation of historic times… The 1963 Agung eruption produced the largest stratospheric dust head covering in more than 50 old ages and inspired many modern scientific surveies. While the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980 was really explosive, it did non shoot much S into the stratosphere. Therefore it had really little planetary effects [ Robock, 1981a ] . Its trophospheric effects lasted merely a few yearss [ Robock and Mass, 1982 and Mass and Robock, 1982 ] .

Harmonizing to Hoyt and Schatten ( 1997, p. 121 ) , the El Chichon eruption of 1982 “could have cooled the Earth in 1983-1984, doing the amplitude of the temperature fluctuations larger.” The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 which injected 20 metres of S dioxide into the ambiance ( Robock, 2000, p. 193 ) , produced an upper atmospheric heating, ( NASA, 2006 ) . Furthermore, the eruptions lead to lower temperatures. For illustration, it produced “the cool summer of 1992 in eastern North America and by September of that twelvemonth it was linked with decreases in planetary and northern hemisphere temperatures of 0.5A°C and 0.7A°C severally ( Dutton and Christy 1992 ; cited in Kemp, 1994, p. 109 ) .

Table 1 Major Volcanic Eruptions of the Past 250 Old ages

Beginning: Robock, 2000, p. 192

How Volcanic Volcanic eruptions Affect Climate Change

Volcanic eruptions affect the turbidness of the ambiance by shooting different sorts of gases and atoms into the ambiance, ( Robock, 2000, p. 193 ) . Volcanic eruptions let go of its major constituent called magmetic stuff into the ambiance. This stuff as comes out as “solid, lithic stuff or solidifies into big atoms, which are referred to as ash or tephra” and “fall out of the atmosphere really quickly, on timescales of proceedingss or to a few hebdomads in the troposphere” , ( Robock, 2000, p. 193 ) . Small sums of these stuffs may stay in the stratosphere for a few months but can hold really small climatic impacts, ( Robock, 2000, p. 193 ) . Volcanic eruptions besides release gases with H2O vapour, Nitrogen and CO2being the most abundant. Since H2O vapour and CO2are the most abundant emanations of volcanic eruptions, and their natural atmospheric concentrations are really big, “individual eruptions have a negligible consequence on their concentrations and do non straight impact the nursery effect” , ( Robock, 2000, p. 193 ) . On the other manus, the emanation of sulfur species to the stratosphere, particularly of SO2, generates climatic effects. Robock ( 2000, p. 193 ) maintains that “ these sulfur species react with OH and H2O to organize H2So4on a timescale of hebdomads, and the ensuing H2So4aerosols produce the dominant radiative consequence from volcanic eruptions ” , ( Robock, 2000, p. 193 ) . These aerosol atoms are quickly advected around the Earth.

For illustration, “the 1991 Pinatubo cloud circled the Earth in 3 hebdomads ( Robock, 2000, p. 193 ) . Figure 2 below shows the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 which injected sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere.

Figure 1 Mount Pinatubo Eruption of 1991

Beginning: Earth Observatory, undated.

Kemp ( 1994, p. 105 ) describes the advection of the Pinatubo cloud below:

It reached Japan two hebdomads after the eruption began ( Hayashida and Sasano 1993 ) . Within 20 yearss the border of the dust cloud had reached southern Europe ( Gobbi et al. 1992 ) , and less than 2 months subsequently was recognized in the stratosphere above southern Australia ( Barton et al. 1992 ) . By October of 1991, the cloud was present above Resolute at 74A°N in the Canadian Arctic, and by early 1992 had spread worldwide ( Rosen et al. 1992 ) .

The release of aerosols from volcanic eruptions causes radiative forcing, which is defined as “the alteration in the net radiative flux at the tropopause” , ( Robock, 2000, p. 197 ) . Figure 2 below illustrates the impacts of volcanic eruptions to the major radiative procedures.

Figure 2

Conventional Diagram of Volcanic Inputs to the Atmosphere and their Effectss.

Beginning: Robock, 2000, p. 195

As shown in Figure 2, the most recognizable impact of aerosol release into the stratosphere is on solar radiation. The stratospheric aerosol cloud that is released by an eruption combines with solar radiation by dispersing. As a consequence, solar radiation is reflected back to infinite, thereby “reducing the sum of solar energy that reaches the Earth’s surface” , ( Robock, 2000, p 194 ) . This procedure accordingly creates a net chilling consequence on the Earth’s surface, but a warming in the stratosphere, ( Robock, 2000 ) . Hoyt and Schatten ( 1997, p. 214 ) , assert that “explosive volcanic eruptions create weak chilling 1 to 2 old ages after their happening In general, big eruptions have been found to bring forth planetary or hemispheric chilling. However, Robock ( 2000, p. 202 ) , claims that “ the winter following a big tropical eruption is warmer over the NH continents, and this counterintuitive consequence is due to the nonlinear response through atmospheric dynamics” . It was found that in the Pinatubo eruption, “the lower stratospheric warming is much larger in the subjects than at the poles. It is this latitudinal gradient of heating which sets up a dynamical response in the ambiance, ensuing in the winter heating of NH Continental parts, due toadvective effects, which dominate over the radiative effects in the winter” , ( Robock, 2000, p. 199 ) . Figure 3 below shows winter “warming over North America, Europe and Siberia and chilling over Alaska, Greenland, the Middle East and China” , ( Robock, 2000, p. 211 ) .

Figure 3 Winter Lower Tropospheric Temperature Anomalies for the 1991-1992 Northern Hemisphere

Beginning: Robock, 2000, p. 211


Past observations of major volcanic eruptions of the past 250 old ages fortify the nexus between volcanic eruptions and clime alteration. The sulphate aerosols that are emitted by eruptions produce chilling at the Earth’s surface, but at the same clip, heating in the stratosphere. For a tropical eruption such as the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991, the warming is more important in the Torrid Zones than in high latitudes, bring forthing a winter heating of the continents in the Northern Hemisphere.


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  6. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, ( NASA ) . 2006. Historic Volcanic Eruption Shrunk the Mighty Nile River. Available from: hypertext transfer protocol: //images.google.com/imgres? imgurl= hypertext transfer protocol: //www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/images/content/161633main_volcano_static.jpg & A ; imgrefurl=http: //www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2006/volcano_nile.html & A ; h=247 & A ; w=400 & A ; sz=15 & A ; hl=en & A ; start=8 & A ; tbnid=AeiWyMHuh87QAM: & A ; tbnh=77 & A ; tbnw=124 & A ; prev=/images? q=volcanic+eruptions+and+climate & A ; gbv=2 & A ; svnum=10 & A ; hl=en & A ; sa=G. [ Accessed: 11 December 2007 ] .
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