Do Erupting Volcanoes Affect Climate Modification?

Climate modification is a multi-faceted and complex subject and the climate modification debate is a nasty one. The simple fact is that climate modification is a natural phenomenon to some extent. Another fact is that volcanoes have changed the climate during certain periods.

Large volcanic explosions can send massive amounts of material and gases into the atmosphere. The gases include carbon dioxide. Beyond these gases they can kick out so much debris and ash that the material in the atmosphere can actually block out the sun or reduce the warming effect.

Mount St. Helens is the most studied eruption. The volcano exploded on May 18, 1980. The eruption was powerful enough to flatten everything for 17 miles, immediately turning 10 million trees into so much firewood, but it barely had an impact on the global temperatures. However, the eruption of the El Chichon volcano in Mexico in 1982 had a measurable climate impact. It was a much smaller eruption than Mount St. Helens, but still the average temperature around the globe cooled by one degree. What scientist learned is the climate modification impact of volcanoes is highly dependent on the type of explosion. What happened is that the materials from Mount St. Helens fell out of the atmosphere quickly, while El Chichon emitted enormous amounts of sulfur that remained in the atmosphere for much longer.

Climate modification occurs over a relatively long period of time. We have not had a chance to see the impact of a major eruption. Mount St. Helens threw roughly a half a cubic mile of material into the air. In 1815, a volcano in Indonesia emitted 24 cubic miles of material into the atmosphere. So one has to imagine it has impacted the climate of the earth.

From what we see, however, the relationship is generally of a short duration and not an explanation for the rising temperatures we have witnessed.


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