EcoAlert: Strong Link Between Climate Change and Volcanic Eruptions Discovered
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December 20, 2012

EcoAlert: Strong Link Between Climate Change and Volcanic Eruptions Discovered

 

 

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It has long been known that volcanic activity can cause short-term variations in climate. Now, researchers at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany), together with colleagues from Harvard University have found evidence that the reverse process also occurs: Climate affects volcanic activity. "In times of global warming, the glaciers are melting on the continents relatively quickly. At the same time the sea level rises. The weight on the continents decreases, while the weight on the oceanic tectonic plates increases. The stress changes within in the earth to open more routes for ascending magma" says geophysicist Dr Marion Jegen from GEOMAR, who participated in the study. The rate of global cooling at the end of the warm phases is much slower, so there are less dramatic stress changes during these times.

"If you follow the natural climate cycles, we are currently at the end of a really warm phase. Therefore, things are volcanically quieter now. The impact from man-made warming is still unclear based on our current understanding" says GEOMAR volcanologist Dr Steffen Kutterolf, who has been with SFB 574 since its founding.

In 1991, it was a disaster for the villages nearby the erupting Philippine volcano Pinatubo. But the effects were felt even as far away as Europe. The volcano threw up many tons of ash and other particles into the atmosphere causing less sunlight than usual to reach the Earth's surface. For the first few years after the eruption, global temperatures dropped by half a degree. In general, volcanic eruptions can have a strong short-term impact on climate. Conversely, the idea that climate may also affect volcanic eruptions on a global scale and over long periods of time is completely new.

Researchers at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany) and Harvard University in Massachusetts (USA) have now found strong evidence for this relationship from major volcanic eruptions around the Pacific Ocean over the past 1 million years. They have presented their results in the latest issue of the international journal Geology.

For more than ten years the project has been extensively exploring volcanoes of Central America. "Among others pieces of evidence, we have observations of ash layers in the seabed and have reconstructed the history of volcanic eruptions for the past 460,000 years," says Kutterolf. Particular patterns started to appear. "There were periods when we found significantly more large eruptions than in others" says Kutterolf.

After comparing these patterns with the climate history, there was an amazing match. The periods of high volcanic activity followed fast, global temperature increases and associated rapid ice melting. To expand the scope of the discoveries, Dr Kutterolf and his colleagues studied other cores from the entire Pacific region. These cores had been collected as part of the International Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and its predecessor programmes. They record more than a million years of the Earth's history.

"In fact, we found the same pattern from these cores as in Central America" says Jegen. Together with colleagues at Harvard University, the geologists and geophysicists searched for a possible explanation. They found it with the help of geological computer models.

The next step is to investigate shorter-term historical variations to better understand implications for the present day.

For more information: Kutterolf, S., M. Jegen, J. X. Mitrovica, T. Kwasnitschka, A. Freundt, P. J. Huybers (2012): A detection of Milankovitch frequencies in global volcanic activity. Geology, G33419.1, dx.doi.org/10.1130/G33419.1 Journal reference: Geology

The Daily Galaxy via Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

Image credit: IAVCEI – the International Association of Volcanology and the Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior

Comments


Only a comet hit could be worse so the ultimate crisis needs the ultimate warning of it “WILL” happen. Is that too much to ask? We are at the point of no return, maybe, from a maybe crisis? I read the science and it only says we could be at the brink of an unstoppable climate crisis. Yes “could” be.
Not one single IPC warning is without "maybe" and "could be" and never have they said any crisis "WILL" actually happen, only might happen.
So 26 years of science saying it could happen, not will happen proves it won't happen. Prove me wrong!
If you love the planet and don't like condemning your own children to the greenhouse gas ovens, then demand that science says clearly that will actually happen, not might happen.
Help my house could be on fire maybe?

This is, indirectly, good news. Volcanic activity causes global cooling, so this will help slow global warming as we adjust our behavior. It's not such good news for people who live near or on volcanoes (my condolences to anyone with relatives living in Pompeii, for instance), but it will help for the world as a whole.

You have rode this climate blame pony too long and we suggest we will boycott the work of you lazy copy and paste news editors who spew this needless CO2 panic.
The politics of science agrees that climate change is real but really not a crisis as they have never said it will happen, only might happen so how could we be near the point of no return from unstoppable warming as well?

Help my house could be on fire maybe?

One would have to want to want to believe this painfully obvious exaggeration of crisis and not admit it was exaggerated. It wasn’t a lie to exaggerate an assumed to be real crisis. Science didn't lie, they played along so how close to the edge of no return will science take us before they say a comet hit of an emergency "WILL" happen?
The worst crisis imaginable needs the ultimate warning of; Yes it WILL happen, not 26 more years of might happen.
Find us one single IPCC warning without “maybe” and “could be”…

We need to start worshiping volcanoes again, eh? Making sacrifices to The Mighty Volcano, starting with Al Gore.

we'll probably end up putting nukes into a couple volcanoes (iceland, java) to try to pump a bunch of particulates into the atmosphere to slow the runaway warming ... and Michael Bay can make the movie version


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