Volcanic Eruptions And Global Climate Change

1562 words - 6 pages

Volcanic Eruptions and Global Climate Change


There has been much debate in recent decades over how much volcanic eruptions contribute to global climate change, the destruction of the ozone layer, and global warming. This electronic term paper deals with various sides of this debate. There will be a specific focus on the great nineteenth century eruptions of Tambora and Krakatoa.

Table of Contents

The Effects of Volcanoes on the Earth Systems in General
The 18-- Eruption of Tambora and its Effects on the Earth Systems
The 1883 Eruption of Krakatoa and its Effects on the Earth Systems
Why Some Scientists are Saying that Volcanoes Do Not Have a Great Effect on
Global Change


Since the beginning of time, volcanoes have been erupting on Earth. Millions of years ago, they created the continents, and the gases they produced condensed in the atmosphere to rain and form the oceans. Today, volcanic eruptions are some of the most feared natural disasters on the face of our planet. Their destructive forces are powerful enough to wipe out entire cities and kill countless numbers of people and wildlife. There are, however, other effects of volcanic eruptions that we don't hear about on the news. One eruption actually has the power to decrease the temperature all over the globe and create a dust cloud that could linger as long as five years. Magma also contains gases that make a small but significant contribution to ozone depletion. The gargantuan eruptions of Tambora and Krakatoa in the nineteenth century, which will soon be discussed, are great examples of how volcanic eruptions affect global climate change.

The Effects of Volcanoes on the Earth Systems in General

Although many of the suggested effects of volcanoes on the atmosphere are shunned by some scientists, little debate arises from the observations of cooling in the atmosphere after major volcanic eruptions. After an eruption, there are abundant amounts of aerosols suspended in the atmosphere. The particles, which are light in color and reflective in nature, can remain suspended in the atmosphere in the form of a thick haze that is visible to the naked eye. The aerosols increase the collective albedo around Earth and cause more solar radiation to be reflected back into space than normal, leading to cooling. The aerosols can also act as condensation nuclei for cloud droplets to cling to and cause increased amounts of rain and snow. Constantine (1998). We will examine the effects of volcanoes on cooling when we look at Krakatoa and Tambora a little later on.

After the injection of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere by a volcanic eruption, there are many changes in atmospheric chemistry. The following figure illustrates some variables in the modeling of eruptions, including light scattering and albedo:

Millions of tons of sulfur dioxide can reach the stratosphere. There, it converts to tiny...

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