The Effects And Causes Of Volcanic Activity

1925 words - 8 pages

Volcanoes are formed when magma is expelled from the Earth’s surface, resulting in volcanic eruptions consisting of ash and lava. Over time, the lava cools and forms into rock on the Earth’s surface. Whenever an eruption occurs, the newly-formed rock from the lava layers continuously until the volcano takes its shape. Volcanic eruptions have taken place for thousands of years, and even today, according to the U.S Geological Survey (2010), there are approximately 1500 active volcanoes located throughout the world.
When a volcano erupts, the focus is particularly on the consequences that take place near the volcano, such as weather conditions, the impact on nature, and the people who are affected. The noticeable changes that take place after a volcanic eruption includes the decrease in the temperature, natural disasters, such as tsunamis, droughts, and hurricanes, and the air pollution, which can be harmful to plants, animals, and people.
There are other short-term effects, and these effects don’t just take place in the area of an eruption, but expands to other parts of the world. Globally, what has become an issue of its own is climate change. In the Encyclopedia Britannica, Jackson (2013) defined climate change as a “periodic modification of Earth's climate brought about as a result of changes in the atmosphere as well as interactions between the atmosphere and various other geologic, chemical, biological, and geographic factors within the Earth system.” With all of the debris that enters the atmosphere from eruptions, volcanoes can make an impact on climate change. Volcanic activity can cause global cooling, but some sources say that it has the potential to impact global warming as well, due to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that enters the atmosphere. When looking at how volcanic activity affects global climate, it is important to look at where it serves a greater impact—in global cooling or global warming?
Global Cooling
The debris from volcanic eruptions have been recognized to cause the cooling of the Earth’s surface. According to the U.S Geological Survey (2010), the most significant impacts on climate comes from the conversion of sulfur dioxide (SO2) to sulfuric acid (H2SO4). Upon reaching the air, the sulfuric acid condenses to form sulfate aerosols. The aerosols are what causes the temperature of the Earth’s lower atmosphere to decrease, by increasing the reflectivity of radiation from the Sun back into space.
In an article from the Scientific American, Karen Harpp (2002) discusses how Benjamin Franklin might have made the first connection between volcanoes and global climate. In 1783, he had observed the climate to be cold during the summer in the Europe and the United States. He also pointed out that there had been “a constant fog over all Europe, and [a] great part of North America.”
Apparently, Franklin’s observations were depicted from the eruption of the Laki volcano located in Iceland. This event occurred in 1783,...

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