Global warming could change the climate impact of volcanic eruptions

The subsequent rise in temperatures on Earth will significantly weaken the effect of volcanic eruptions on the planet’s climate, which may further accelerate global warming. This was announced on Thursday by the press service of the University of Cambridge, citing an article in the journal Nature Communications.

“We have known for a long time that powerful volcanic eruptions can lower the temperature on Earth. We were interested in the opposite question – can global warming affect how strongly volcanic eruptions affect the planet’s climate. “- said a researcher at the University of Cambridge, Thomas Aubrey, whose words are quoted by the press service of the university.

Climatologists consider volcanoes to be one of the main “conductors” of the Earth’s climate. On the one hand, they return some of the stored carbon back to the atmosphere, which can lead to a rise in temperature. On the other hand, they can lower it by filling the atmosphere with ash particles and aerosol droplets that reflect the sun’s rays and heat.

In particular, something similar happened in 1991 after the powerful eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, as a result of which temperatures on Earth temporarily dropped in the following months by about 0.5 degrees Celsius. Even more striking events of this kind happened about 70 thousand years ago and in 1815 after the explosions of the supervolcanoes Toba and Tambor, each of which gave rise to a long-term “volcanic winter”.

Aubrey and his colleagues became interested in how the Earth’s climate is influenced not only by the most powerful volcanic eruptions, but also by moderate and weak cataclysms of this kind. Unlike the consequences of supervolcanic explosions, the emissions generated by these events cannot rise to a great height, which does not allow them to be distributed throughout the entire atmosphere and limits their influence on the climate.

Climate and volcanoes

Scientists drew attention to the fact that the effectiveness of the action of such eruptions on the Earth’s climate will strongly depend on how the atmosphere interacts with their emissions. This, in turn, will be determined by the air temperature, the nature of the movement of winds and other factors that are now changing as a result of an increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Guided by similar considerations, scientists have calculated how changes in the structure and behavior of the atmosphere associated with the current global warming will affect the nature of the effect of volcanic eruptions on the Earth’s climate. To do this, Aubrey and his colleagues created a detailed climate model describing the movement of aerosols and soot particles emitted by volcanoes.

Subsequent calculations showed that global warming will have different effects on strong and weak volcanic eruptions. The influence of more powerful cataclysms on the Earth’s climate will increase by about 18-35%, while moderate and weak manifestations of volcanic activity will have a much weaker effect on temperatures than they do now.

According to scientists, the force of their effect on the planet’s climate will drop by about four times as a result of the fact that a much smaller amount of sulfur compounds and other substances that can generate aerosol droplets will enter the upper atmosphere. Given the large number of weak to moderate eruptions, such changes will generally weaken the extent to which these volcanoes affect the planet’s climate.

Such processes, as the researchers note, are now not taken into account by the experts of the UN and other leading international organizations when making forecasts of how the Earth’s climate will change in the coming decades. Aubrey and his colleagues hope that their ideas will attract the attention of colleagues and help to more accurately predict how the temperatures on the planet will rise in the near future.

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