Category Images

How Volcanoes Are Having a Huge Impact on Climate Change

When it comes to climate change we don’t often think of volcanoes. There is evidence to suggest that our planet’s history has been shaped by the eruptions of giant volcanoes. Volcanic eruptions can cause short-term cooling and longer-term warming, depending on the amount of ash, sulphur dioxide, and other particles released into the atmosphere.

Volcano

What Is a Volcano?

Volcanoes are certainly some of the most powerful forces of nature on our planet. They can alter the landscape affecting thousands, millions or even billions of people.

They can be destructive, with their molten lava and gas causing widespread damage when they erupt. But they are also responsible for forming much of the planet’s surface, including the islands we live on.

The word volcano is derived from the name Vulcano, which is one of the Aeolian Islands found in Italy’s Lipari archipelago. The island was named Vulcano as it was covered in volcanic ash from an eruption and was named after the roman god of fire.

Volcanoes are found on all seven continents and anywhere else there is a tectonic plate in constant movement. Volcanic areas form where there is a crack in the earth’s crust through which magma rises to escape.

Advertisement


This happens when the tectonic plates move apart or when two tectonic plates slide against each other and create friction.

The types of volcanoes vary dramatically depending on what causes them to erupt, as well as where they are located.

Volcanoes have been around for billions of years, and there are still about 1,400 active volcanoes today. These mountains of fire have helped shape the landscape of our planet, as well as the resources and environment that we have today.

When a volcano erupts, it can cause changes to the climate and areas around it, which can affect the lives of animals and humans.

The most famous eruption in recent times was Mount St. Helens in 1980, which caused many deaths in the surrounding area.

Types of Volcanoes

There are generally three different types of volcanoes. These are Cinder Cones, Composite Volcanoes, and Shield Volcanoes. Each of these volcanoes is made up of different rock, and different amounts of lava as well.

Cinder cones are the most common type of volcanoes, making up about 10% of all volcanoes. Cinder cones are also known as scoria cones because they are composed almost entirely of lava fragments called “cinders.”

They can have steep sides or be broad and low to the ground. Solfatara is a cinder cone volcano in Italy that has been active for thousands of years.

Many cinder cones are found on shield volcanoes; these volcanoes are broad, domed mountains formed by eruptions of fluid lava and tephra (fragments of rock).

What Do You Think Is the Most Dangerous Volcano?

The most dangerous volcano is one that you are not prepared for because it has been dormant for years and you have no warning. Some volcanoes in the world are still active, and some volcanoes are dormant, meaning that they are no longer active and could erupt at any time. Currently there is no way to predict when volcanoes will explode.

Composite volcanoes are much larger than cinder cones and have multiple layers of lava flows. These types of volcanoes also hold pyroclastic material and other volcanic products within their structure.

Tall composite volcanoes like Mount Fuji in Japan are built from layers of lava flows, which pile on top of one another to form a steep mountain that often has a volcanic cone at its peak.

Shield volcanoes are probably the largest and most common type of volcano in the world.

They tend to have very fluid lavas and can be dangerous because they release large amounts of gases into the air during eruptions. Shield volcanoes are typically found near tectonic plate boundaries.

Broad and gently sloping, shield volcanoes also have broad bases that can span many miles and rise thousands of feet above their surroundings. Mount Rainier, in Washington state, and Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, are both shield volcanoes.

  • Cinder cones erupt explosively, spewing out a lot of ash and gas
  • Composite volcanoes are among the most common type in the world
  • Shield volcanoes tend to be rounder, have more gentle slopes, and have

How Do Volcanoes Affect the Climate?

Volcanoes can affect the climate by emitting dust and sulphur dioxide, which creates a cooling effect on Earth’s surface through the formation of sulphate aerosols in the upper atmosphere.

Volcanic eruptions can produce both quiet lava flows and explosive eruptions that send ash and gases into the atmosphere.

The resulting aerosols or dust, depending on their size, allow only certain wavelengths of light to pass through to the surface. This then reflects some solar radiation away from Earth toward space.

Aerosols or dust in the stratosphere may also scatter incoming solar radiation, which affects ozone production.

Volcanoes are responsible for the release of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, which warm the climate.

Over the past few decades, scientists have been checking volcanoes for the eruption products that they release into the atmosphere. Scientists are concerned with how these products will affect the global climate system.

In the past, scientists have suggested that explosive volcanoes release so much dust and gas into the atmosphere that they could cause significant global cooling and even trigger an ice age.

  • Volcanic ash can cause breathing problems
  • Invisible gases may contribute to global climate change
  • Volcanic ash contains microorganisms that drop down to the earth
  • Specifically, volcanic activity and ash clouds have affected air travel
  • Scientists believe it has an impact on climate change over the years

Volcanic Eruptions Change Weather Patterns

Volcanic eruptions have a significant impact on the weather, particularly in their local area, but also in far distant places. Volcanic eruptions release large amounts of ash and gases into the upper atmosphere.

These substances can be transported thousands of miles, influencing the weather in other parts of the world. The effects are complex and not well understood, as they are difficult to measure, but they have been underestimated and underappreciated.

After a volcanic eruption, scientists have seen that it can take weeks for the sky to clear and the sun to reappear. The ash cloud contains tiny particles of glassy volcanic rock (known as tephra).

That reflects sunlight back into space, cooling both the Earth’s surface and its lower atmosphere (the troposphere). This in turn causes temperatures to drop below normal levels at ground level.

The eruption itself also releases sulphur dioxide gas into the stratosphere that combines with water vapour to form sulphuric acid aerosols, which block some sunlight from reaching the Earth. These have a similar cooling effect.

TIP: Those in areas with high concentrations of ash should cover their mouth and nose with a damp cloth and should contact their healthcare provider for additional advice.

Within hours of an explosive eruption, ash is injected high into the atmosphere by the volcanic plume. The column of ash can rise to 30 km above sea level and remain there for months.

A recent study conducted by experts from the University of Bristol in the UK has provided a new perspective on the effects of volcanic eruptions on weather and their importance in climate change.

The study shows that in addition to producing dramatic changes in temperature and rainfall following an eruption, volcanoes can have a much longer-term effect on climate patterns – even decades after an eruption has occurred.

Earlier studies have focused mainly on global cooling following large volcanic eruptions and the cooling effects that these have on global climate. However, this new study shows that global warming can also occur because of an eruption.

Volcanic activity has had major impacts on climate throughout geological history, but until now it was not known how often this occurred in recent centuries or how big individual eruptions were.

Volcanic Ash Can Damage Crops and Livestock

Ash from volcanic eruptions can spread thousands of miles from the source, which means the effects of the eruption can be felt for a long time after it’s over.

The ash clouds can block sunlight, causing plants to grow less and food production to drop, which could lead to famine. The ash also causes respiratory problems in animals and people.

In some cases, the ash can destroy people’s crops or livestock, leading to starvation.

Volcanoes can be terrifying, but they also play a role in forming new land. Volcanic eruptions spew rock into the air, which falls back to Earth as ash and dust.

The ash can drift from its original source, however, and end up in another country altogether. For example, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010 and produced an ash cloud that spread across northern Europe.

For a short time, the cloud had a major impact on air travel in the region. Planes couldn’t fly through the cloud because the ash could damage their engines.

It also disrupted power lines and interfered with shipping routes. But the cloud didn’t just affect Europe — it circled the entire globe in about three days’ time.

The same thing happened in 1883 when Krakatoa erupted. This volcano is found near Indonesia, on the other side of the world from Iceland.

Its explosion was so loud that people on ships off the coast of Java and people as far away as Perth, Australia, heard it clearly. In fact, people from as far away as 3,000 miles could hear it.

Volcanoes Erupt All the Time

Volcanic eruptions are a common occurrence. On average, there are around 60-80 volcanic eruptions each year. But what many people don’t realise is that these eruptions can have a huge impact on the climate of the entire world.

Volcanic eruptions are one of the main sources of natural particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. These particles can reflect sunlight, which causes a temporary cooling effect.

It is estimated that volcanic activity produces between 10 and 100 million tonnes of dust a year.

When this dust is thrown into the air it reflects incoming sunlight, reducing the amount of heat energy coming into the earth’s atmosphere.

The most likely cause of a sudden increase in global temperature is the human use of fossil fuels, but volcanoes can also be responsible for a spike in average global temperatures.

Advertisement


Volcanoes spew out greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide, into the atmosphere which causes a slight warming effect on Earth’s atmosphere.

This has been found to occur during periods of global warming like the current one, according to researchers at Arizona State University and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Researchers say that they have found that volcanic activity left its mark on Earth’s climate history as far back as 2 million years ago. Volcanoes can have an impact even when they are located thousands of miles away from an area where glaciers are melting at an alarming rate.

What we need to do is learn more about how volcanoes affect climate change and what their role is in causing it to continue.

From the thousands of miles of lava flows to the particulates that form from sulphur, volcanoes are having a significant impact on climate change.


Also for you...