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Explosive Volcanic Activity Adds to Global Cooling

A 1998 report by a scientist from the Beijing Astronomical Observatory states “Earthquakes occur frequently around the minimum years of solar activity.” As reported on NewScientist.com and numerous other science sites, including Space.com, the sun has recently entered into its lowest (minimum) activity levels in four centuries, coinciding with an increase in global seismic activity. “Solar activity is declining very fast at the moment,” Mike Lockwood, professor of space environmental physics at Reading University, UK, told New Scientist.

Volcanic eruptions that have been spewing over the last 14 years are partially responsible for the cooling of Earth (slowing down the effects of global warming), a recent study published in Nature Geoscience suggests. Researchers attribute this helping hand to just 17 of the eruptions from 1998 to 2012 that pumped sulfur dioxide into Earth’s upper atmosphere. The molecule formed liquid particles that reflected sunlight back to space rather than to the Earth’s surface, moderating the larger-scale warming of the planet surface, the Los Angeles Times reported.

It is true that most volcanic pollution of the lower atmosphere is removed within days by the effects of rainfall and gravity, but stratospheric pollution may remain there for several years, gradually spreading to cover much of the globe. This stratospheric pollution results in a substantial reduction in the direct solar beam, largely through scattering by the highly reflective sulphuric acid aerosols. This can amount to tens of percent. The reduction, is however, compensated for by an increase in diffuse radiation and by the absorption of outgoing terrestrial radiation (the greenhouse effect). Overall, there is a net reduction of 5 to 10% in energy received at the Earth’s surface.

School children walk as Mount Sinabung erupts in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 - Credit: Sarianto/AP

School children walk as Mount Sinabung erupts in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia,

Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.

On April 22, 2015 southern Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupted for the first time in nearly half a century, spewing a giant funnel of ash ten kilometers high into the sky and prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency. The 6,500 foot (2,000-meter) Calbuco last erupted in 1972 and is considered one of the top three most potentially dangerous among Chile’s 90 active volcanoes. “During the most intense phase, an impressive lava fountain could be seen jetting from the vent and the eruption column rose to more than 15 km altitude,” says volcanodiscover.com. “Ballistic incandescent bombs were ejected to distances of up to 5 km.” Virtually no warning of an impending eruption – just a mere two hours of intense seismic activity before it blew its top.

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Debris sent into the stratosphere by an eruption can include volcanic ash, chemicals and gases, specifically sulfur. This debris decreases the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the planet. Following an eruption, debris can build in the stratosphere over time and linger for years after. Increasing volcanic eruptions have been spewing ash into the atmosphere over the last 14 years are partially responsible for global cooling.

Looking at global magnitude six (M6) or greater from 1980 to 1989 there was an average of 108.5 earthquakes per year, from 2000 to 2009 the planet averaged 160.9 earthquakes per year: that is a 38.9% increase of M6+ earthquakes in recent years.

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The most recent study by the USGS finds there were more than twice as many big earthquakes in the first quarter of 2014 as compared with the average since 1979. “We have recently experienced a period that has had one of the highest rates of great earthquakes ever recorded,” said lead study author Tom Parsons, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in California.

Magma is rising at the Turrialba Volcano in Costa Rica. It’s most recent eruption sent ash 2 kilometers into the air. Peru’s Ubinas volcano recently exploded, spreading ashes over nearby village. The Mount Sinabung volcano in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province erupted spewing a column of ash also by up to two kilometres into the sky and made people run for their lives.

In Peru the Moquegua Regional Council issued a declaration of emergency in light of the dangers posed by the recent activity of the Ubinas volcano. Within the last two weeks, the Ubinas volcano has erupted seven times with significant energy, releasing vast waves of ash and causing an impressive mudslide. The region has been under tension and authorities have warned the population of evacuation plans in the case of an emergency.

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April 10 of 2015 marked the 200th anniversary of the 1815 Tambora eruption in Indonesia. The enormous explosion changed global climate, causing a "year without a summer" in the Northern Hemisphere. Sulfur dioxide from Mount Tambora lingered in the atmosphere for several years, cooling the planet and triggering crop failures, famine and human disease pandemics in North America, Europe and Asia. "People were eating cats and rats," said Stephen Self, a volcanologist at the University of California, Berkeley and an expert on the Tambora eruption. Scientists are estimating that there is a 30% chance of another Tambora-size eruption striking this century.

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There is growing unrest at Mount Paektu. Last time she blew her top 1,000 years ago Paektu unleashed energy equal to 1 million atom bombs. Professor Yoon Sung-hyo of Pusan National University says there are indications that the volcano, though quiet for decades, could erupt any time and urged closer monitoring of the situation. The last eruptive activity at the volcano occurred in 1903, though prior past eruptions were among some of the largest in recorded history. He says the concentration of helium in the volcano has been rising over the last decade or so, and magma levels are creeping up. Yoon has been warning of another eruption since 2010.

“It’s hard really to imagine the scale,” Clive Oppenheimer, a professor of volcanology at Cambridge University said, “but you’re talking about something like 1,000,000 nuclear weapons all going off at the same time in terms of the energy involved.” The eruption changed the landscape dramatically, leaving behind a three-mile crater, today known as Heaven Lake.

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Mount Zao Shaken by Swarm of Tremors – Volcano Last Erupted 75 Years Ago

Mount Zao last erupted in 1940. Fears of fresh eruption of Mount Zao, a volcano that sits on the border of the Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures, rattled Japan after the country’s meteorological agency recorded 12 volcanic earthquakes in mid-April. The seismic activity prompted warnings of a volcanic eruption, with the agency asking the public to stay safe from falling rocks in a 1.2 km radius of the volcano.

Seafloor Volcano Activity Has the Power to Alter Climate

2009 eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai. Image credit: Tonga NEMO

Vast ranges of volcanoes hidden under the oceans flare up on strikingly regular cycles, says a new study from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Vast ranges of volcanoes hidden under the oceans are presumed by scientists to be the gentle giants of the planet, oozing lava at slow, steady rates along mid-ocean ridges. But a new study shows that they flare up on strikingly regular cycles, ranging from two weeks to 100,000 years—and, that they erupt almost exclusively during the first six months of each year. The pulses—apparently tied to short- and long-term changes in earth’s orbit, and to sea levels–may help trigger natural climate swings.

Bardarbunga-Holuhraun

The eruption saw a dyke open across the landscape some 45km in length. Scientists have quantified the amount of gas emitted by Iceland’s spectacular Bardarbunga-Holuhraun eruption. A massive dyke drove across the landscape, starting in August last year, producing huge fountains of lava. But the six-month event also released 11 million tons of sulphur dioxide that spread over the country and the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe.

Explosive Volcanic Activity Adds to Global Cooling

Photo of Mount Tavurvur erupting in eastern Papua New Guinea.

In Wikipedia we read, “The year 1816 is known as the Year Without a Summer because of severe climate abnormalities that caused average global temperatures to decrease by 0.4–0.7 C (0.7–1.3°F). This resulted in major food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere. Evidence suggests the anomaly was caused by a combination of a historic low in solar activity with a volcanic winter event, the latter caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions capped by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), the largest known eruption in over 1,300 years.

“With an explosive force 13,000 times the power of the atomic bomb that annihilated Hiroshima, the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa killed more than 36,000 people and radically altered global weather and temperatures for years afterwards. Now, almost a century-and-a-half on, are we about to experience the horrors of Krakatoa once again,” asked British journalists back in July of 2009. Krakatoa had an extraordinary effect on the planet last time around. Average global temperatures following the eruption fell by as much as 1.2° C, as the huge quantities of sulphur dioxide pumped into the atmosphere resulted in clouds that reflected a greater amount of incoming light from the sun.

Photo of  Ecuadorian volcano Tungurahua spewing a column of smog and ashes as it is seen from the village of Pingue, Ecuador.

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“We estimate over half a million sheep have been lost because of the ashes that continue to be spewed by the volcano,” said Ernesto Siguero president of the Chubut Rural Society. On the 4th of October the Kamchatka volcano Shiveluch in Russia emitted a column of ash up to 8 km high. Chile’s Hudson volcano released three huge columns of steam and ash that combined in a cloud more than 3 miles high on the 28th, threatening a much larger eruption that had authorities in Chile and Argentina on red alert. On October 27, Chilean volcano awakened after 20 years of silence unleashing a cloud of smoke 1 km high. On October 26, another volcano in central Indonesia erupted, spewing hot smoke and ash thousands of feet into the air. On October 23, 2011 – Catania, Italy – a spectacular eruption started going on the Mount Etna volcano. On October 26, 2010, Mount Merapi exploded killing more than 300 people as they raced from the crater down the volcano’s slopes attempting to escape the fast-moving clouds of superheated gas and ash that scorched entire villages. The eruptions peaked on November 5, with a spectacular ash plume extending 14 kilometers into the atmosphere.

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An 18 km-high volcanic plume from one of a series of explosive eruptions of Mount Pinatubo beginning on 12 June 1991, viewed from Clark Air Base (about 20 km east of the volcano). Three days later, the most powerful eruption produced a plume that rose nearly 40 km, penetrating well into the stratosphere. Pinatubo’s sulfur emissions cooled the Earth by about 1°F (0.5°C) for 1 – 2 years. (Photograph by David H. Harlow, USGS.)

Volcanic eruptions affect the Earth’s climate more than thought by releasing far more weather-altering particles than scientists’ suspected, new research finds. Researchers have analyzed how many secondary particles of volcanic ash generates and how this ash reacts chemically with other components of the atmosphere. The particles created from the eruptions are mostly composed of sulfuric acid.

If sulfuric acid particles become large enough, they act as seeds for cloud formation. Clouds, in turn, can alter the amount and type of precipitation an area receives. The atmospheric data the researchers collected during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption suggest that volcanic eruptions can release up to 100 million times more ash particles than thought. In addition, seeding particles can form at lower altitudes and farther distances from volcanoes than past studies had suggested.

The number of volcanoes that are erupting continues to rise. In 2013, we witnessed the most volcanic eruptions worldwide that we have ever seen in a single year, and this increased activity has carried over into 2014. The previous number was set in 2010, at 82 volcanic eruptions for the year. The number of volcanoes erupting across the planet has been steadily rising from just 55 recorded in 1990. The average number of volcanic eruptions per year should be about 50 to 60; as of December 5, 2013, we were already at 83.

“In the last decade, the amount of volcanic aerosol in the stratosphere has increased, so more sunlight is being reflected back into space,” said lead author Benjamin Santer, climate scientist at Laurence Livermore National Laboratory, in a press release. “This has created a natural cooling of the planet and has partly offset the increase in surface and atmospheric temperatures due to human influence.”

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Therefore, we know what volcanoes can do but no one has been able to calculate the accumulating effects of many smaller eruptions going off at the same time. Many of our recent volcanic eruptions have been very large and together seem to be having a strong and unexpected effect. The well-known cooling effect of volcanic ash is combining with diminishing radiation from the sun to slam us into, not eventual cooling, but quick cooling that will change life in the higher latitudes this year.

Pinatubo -usgs

The huge gas, ash and aerosol cloud blasted into the atmosphere by Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, which erupted in 1991. Mount Pinatubo, a stratovolcano in the Philippines, cooled global temperatures for about 2–3 years. The eruption was one of the century’s most powerful eruptions. Its huge dust and aerosol cloud cooled parts of the world by up to 0.4 degrees Celsius.

In 1883, the explosion of Krakatoa (Krakatau) created volcanic winter-like conditions. The four years following the explosion were unusually cold, and the winter of 1887-1888 included powerful blizzards. Record snowfalls were recorded worldwide.

The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, a stratovolcano in Indonesia, occasioned mid-summer frosts in New York State and June snowfalls in New England and Newfoundland and Labrador in what came to be known as the “Year Without a Summer” of 1816.

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All it takes for a tremendous plunge in global temperature is one big volcano to blow its stack. However, scientists are learning that even small volcanic eruptions can have a “cooling effect” on Earth’s global climate. Volcanoes spew sulphur into the atmosphere which reflects sunlight back into space.

Global dimming (cooling effect) is a real phenomenon caused by human activity (lots of planes) but just one big blow from one volcano can send world temperatures into the gutter. More than several are threatening to blow their stacks. Even with present activity from dozens of highly active volcanoes the outlook is not good in terms of climate.

Description: Popo

This particular volcano is near Mexico City and is a threat, like others, to millions of people who live near them.

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The reason is what researchers call the “cooling influences” of volcanic gases. Sulfur has a sun-blocking effect, scattering incoming sunlight and offsetting emissions of heat-trapping gases. The influence of these volcanic ejections has been largely ignored, researchers claim. Scientists say the effect accounts for about 15%.

"Part of the lack of the increase in warming for the last 15 years may be due to the cooling effect of volcanoes," Céline Bonfils, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and co-author of the study, told Live Science.

Above cloud level the plume looks like a nuclear bomb has just exploded with its mushroom cloud bursting towards the skies

Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain, about 575 miles south of the capital, Santiago, Chile threw ash up to 20,000-35,000 feet. According to Reuters, large volcanic eruptions can dim global sunshine for years. But scientists are increasingly learning that even small eruptions can have a dimming effect. “This is a complex detective story,” Benjamin Santer, a climate researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and lead author of the study, told Reuters. “Volcanoes are part of the answer but there’s no factor that is solely responsible for the hiatus.”

This is hardly the first study to suggest that volcanic eruptions can significantly alter the planet’s climate. A 2013 study by a team of scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder found that small amounts of sulfur dioxide emitted from Earth’s surface eventually make it into Earth’s stratosphere where the particles reflect sunlight back into space. Researchers estimated that these aerosols have offset up to 25 percent of the warming scientists attribute to human greenhouse gas emissions.

"The biggest implication here is that scientists need to pay more attention to small and moderate volcanic eruptions when trying to understand changes in Earth’s climate," Brian Toon, of CU-Boulder’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, said in a statement. "But overall these eruptions are not going to counter the greenhouse effect. Emissions of volcanic gases go up and down, helping to cool or heat the planet, while greenhouse gas emissions from human activity just continue to go up."

It is not just volcanoes that scientists believe are partially responsible for Earth’s global warming slowdown. A 2013 study by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change argued that natural variations in the Earth’s climate, such as the ocean’s absorbing of extra heat, could account for our planet’s slowing surface temperature rise, according to The Guardian.

Luzon, PhilippinesPinatubo is a stratovolcano on the island of Luzon.  Pinatubo rose about 5725 feet above sea level before the June 1991 eruption. Almost 500 feet of the volcano was blasted away by this eruption.

Ash clouds around Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. Too many volcanoes have been putting out incredible amounts of ash and sulfur.

The astounding number of recent volcanic eruptions is adding to the global dimming effect, which weighs heavily in favor of global cooling:

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A volcano on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island erupted at least 77 times in one weekend, sending clouds of potentially deadly superheated gas barreling down the mountain and forcing the evacuation of more villages in the highly populated area. The disaster agency said that Sinabung had sent fine particles of ash up to 4,000 meters into the air. That marks a major increase in the frequency of eruptions and is mirroring an intensification of volcanic activity being seen in many areas of the