Chile's volcano not likely to affect the climate

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:01 PM GMT on May 19, 2008

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It's been a busy month for natural disasters, and I haven't found time to talk about Chile's Chaiten volcano, 760 miles (1,220 km) south of the capital Santiago. The volcano started erupting on May 2 for the first time in thousands of years, spewing ash, gas and molten rock into the air, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people. Did this mighty eruption have a cooling effect on the climate?


Figure 1. This May 5, 2008 image from NASA's Terra satellite caught Chaiten erupting. Image credit: NASA.

Many historic volcanic eruptions have had a major cooling impact on Earth's climate. However, Chaiten is very unlikely to be one of them. To see why this is, let's examine recent volcanic eruptions that have had a significant cooling effect on the climate. In the past 200 years, Mt. Pinatubo in the Phillipines (June 1991), El Chichon (Mexico, 1982), Mt. Agung (Indonesia, 1963), Santa Maria (Guatemala, 1902) Krakatoa (Indonesia, 1883), and Tambora (1815) all created noticeable cooling. As one can see from a plot of the solar radiation reaching Mauna Loa in Hawaii (Figure 2), the Mt. Pinatubo and El Chichon eruptions caused a greater than 10% drop in sunlight reaching the surface. The eruption of Tambora in 1815 had an even greater impact, triggering the famed Year Without a Summer in 1816. Killing frosts and snowstorms in May and June 1816 in Eastern Canada and New England caused widespread crop failures, and lake and river ice were observed as far south as Pennsylvania in July and August. Volcanic eruptions cause this kind of climate cooling by throwing large amounts of sulfur dioxide gas into the stratosphere. This gas reacts with water to form sulphuric acid droplets (aerosol particles), which are highly reflective, and reduce the amount of incoming sunlight.

You'll notice from the list of eruptions above that all of these climate-cooling events were from volcanoes in the tropics. Above the tropics, the stratosphere's circulation features rising air, which pulls the sulfur-containing volcanic aerosols high into the stratosphere, where the upper-level winds circulate them all around the globe. These aerosol particles take a year or two to settle back down to earth, since there is no rain in the stratosphere to help remove them. However, if a major volcanic eruption occurs in the mid-latitudes or polar regions, the circulation of the stratosphere in those regions generally features downward subsiding air, and the volcanic aerosol particles are not able to penetrate high in the stratosphere and get carried all around the globe. Chaiten is located near 40° south latitude, far from the tropics, and thus is unlikely to be able to inject significant amounts of sulfur aerosols into the stratosphere. Furthermore, the character of Chaiten's eruptions so far has been to eject a lot of silica and not much sulfur into the air. The total amount of sulfur ejected has been only about 1/10000 of what Mt. Pinatubo put into the air, according to NASA.


Figure 2. Reduced solar radiation due to volcanic aerosols as measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. Image credit: NOAA/ESRL.

Realclimate.org has a nice article that goes into the volcano-climate connection in greater detail. One interesting quote from the article: There can be some exceptions to the tropics-only rule, and at least one high latitude volcano appears to have had significant climate effects; Laki (Iceland, 1783-1784). The crucial factor was that the eruption was almost continuous for over 8 months which lead to significantly elevated sulphate concentrations for that whole time over much of the Atlantic and European regions, even though stratospheric concentrations were likely not particularly exceptional.

My next blog will talk about new research regarding the hurricanes/global warming connection.

Jeff Masters

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1290. NEwxguy
7:52 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
nice one mlc,lol
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 887 Comments: 15965
1288. Drakoen
7:46 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
CaneAddict, why even bother responding to his comment. Its obvious by the orientation of the comment that it is subliminal egotism.

It seems everyone is in competition with each other these days...
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1287. TheWeatherMan504
7:44 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
ok
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1286. CaneAddict
7:44 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
1258. TheWeatherMan504 7:20 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
no you said that it would persist for a few days and i said it would be dissapating in the next 36 hours and you said i was wrong because i didnt get it from a higher source well guess what im a meteoroligist.my job is to make the maps at TWC that they put on tv. i do this in my free time.


Anyway im curious could you provide some proof that you work for TWC and are a Meteorologist?
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1285. NEwxguy
7:44 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Hey,it's Hurr season hasn't started yet,easy,easy.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 887 Comments: 15965
1283. cchsweatherman
3:38 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
Flood,
Here is where you should be looking for the surface low that TheCaneWhisperer, the NHC, and I have found from the SW Caribbean disturbance. You can clearly see the low-level cyclonic turning. The reason why you may not find a circulation on QuikSCAT is the fact that part of the low-level circulation is now overland in Nicaragua.
Photobucket
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1282. cchsweatherman
3:36 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
The NHC analyzed a surface low off the Nicaraguan coast in their latest Tropical Weather Discussion.

CARIBBEAN SEA...
ACTIVE WEATHER LIES OVER THE SW WATERS. IR IMAGERY AND LIGHTNING
DATA INDICATE SCATTERED SHOWERS AND TSTMS DEEPENING AND
EXPANDING OVER THE PAST FEW HOURS FROM 11N-14N BETWEEN 76W-82W.
THE FORCING FOR THIS ACTIVITY INCLUDES A 1010 MB SFC LOW JUST
OFF THE COAST OF SE NICARAGUA AND AN UPPER DIFFLUENT PATTERN ON
THE S SIDE OF A BROAD UPPER RIDGE. NWP MODELS SHOW THIS LOW...OR
ITS ASSOCIATED VORTICITY...MOVING INLAND OVER THE NEXT 24 HOURS.

OTHERWISE...A SUBSIDENT ENVIRONMENT IS IN PLACE ASSOCIATED WITH
A BROAD MID-LEVEL RIDGE CENTERED ROUGHLY NEAR 15N65W...ALLOWING
FAIR WEATHER TO DOMINATE. ELY TRADES OF 20-25 KT ARE BLOWING
OVER THE S CARIB AND THIS IS EXPECTED TO CHANGE LITTLE OVER THE
NEXT 24 HOURS.
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1281. moonlightcowboy
2:36 PM CDT on May 20, 2008
More loop current and eddy info here.
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1280. hurricane23
3:35 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
At the same time the GFS model is historically one of the best models out there sniffing out tropical cyclone formation.
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1279. Floodman
7:34 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
1264. TheCaneWhisperer

It may be the CAD...I don't see any noticeable spin in the linked loop
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1278. cchsweatherman
3:33 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
TheCaneWhisperer,
I had noticed a low-level circulation this morning when I published my Tropical Update. Here is the Tropical Update I had posted.

1053. cchsweatherman 10:43 AM EDT on May 20, 2008
Tropical Update for Tuesday, May 20

Right now, there are no concerns throughout the entire Atlantic as the entire region remains rather inactive. This does not mean that there is no active tropical weather going on at the moment.

Yesterday, I had been watching a convective burst associated with a weak 1011mb surface low in Panama. Well, this morning, it appears that there may be some minor organization occuring in the area as there exists a low-level circulation at 11N 82.5W with some developing convection to the south and an impressive convective band to the north and east of this analyzed circulation. Due to close proximity with land, no tropical development is expected from this disturbance, but tropical development is possible if it survives crossing over into the Pacific Ocean.

Impressive convective activity that was occuring off Africa yesterday (and appeared to have been a tropical wave, although not recognized by the NHC) has significantly waned this morning, but some strong showers and isolated thunderstorms still remain in the same area.

The GFS model continues to indicate a possible tropical system developing in the Northwest Caribbean by late next week, but the model has continued to be erratic regarding both the intensity and future track. I will continue to monitor this model, but there is no need to worry about this "ghost" (as some around here like to call them) system, especially since we don't even have any potential system out there.

So, based upon current satellite imagery and analysis of the current environmental conditions throughout the Atlantic, no tropical development is expected during the next 24 to 48 hours.

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1277. NEwxguy
7:31 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Nice to see you again StormW,missed your daily
analysis
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 887 Comments: 15965
1276. hahaguy
3:34 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
yup glad to have you back storm :)
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
1275. Drakoen
7:32 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
1271. hurricane23 7:31 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
1266. Drakoen 3:26 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
Adrian, I don't see where model support would come from since there is on the ECMWF and the GFS that go out that far.

I still say it will be something interesting to watch next week.

Drak for starters iam not a big fan of 200hr+ models.I look for trends with models and always take a look around and see what the atmosphere is currently doing.When you see something in 80-100hr time frame from a variety of models in a consistent basis then its time to watch.



My point was concerning short range forecasts. My point is that there are only 2 models that go out beyond the UKMET, NOGAPS, and CMC and that is the GFS and ECMWF.
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1273. moonlightcowboy
2:24 PM CDT on May 20, 2008


The two Quikscat passes (above) show Katrina as it enters the GOM in August 2005 over sFlorida (left before) and then after it passes over the loop current and eddy in the central and ncGOM (right after) exploding into CAT 5 cane over these hot, deep waters before making landfall.



And, the two Quikscat passes (above) show IVAN in the Caribbean in 2004 (left before) and then after it passes over the loop current and eddy in the central and ncGOM (right after) exploding into CAT 5 cane over these hot, deep waters before making landfall as a slightly weaker CAT 4.
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1272. NoNamePub
7:31 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Flood - mail...
Member Since: July 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 530
1271. hurricane23
3:26 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
1266. Drakoen 3:26 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
Adrian, I don't see where model support would come from since there is on the ECMWF and the GFS that go out that far.

I still say it will be something interesting to watch next week.

Drak honestly iam not a big fan of 200hr models.I look for trends with models and always take a look around and see what the atmosphere is currently doing.When you see something in 80-100hr time frame from a variety of models in a consistent basis then its time to watch.
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1270. Drakoen
7:31 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Hey StormW! Good to see you are back.
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1269. groundswell
7:26 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
looks to me the SW blob is going a little more NW. If it could just squeeze into the NW caribbean, it would have a chance, then be picked up by the sub jet & race to the NE. Then we would have a shot at some surf on both coasts, because right now, it's flat.
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1268. TheCaneWhisperer
7:28 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Seems to be some turning further away from the documented low about to move onshore, NE corner of the convection.
1267. Patrap
2:25 PM CDT on May 20, 2008
A drifter ring of a Warm Loop eddy is problematic if a Large Scale Hurricane finds the Sweet Spot.
Katrina and Rita Both were Fueled by the same Eddy fragment. Its the time spent over it and conditions aloft to allow full advantage ,that made those such Massive Storms at Peak ..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129419
1266. Drakoen
7:24 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Adrian, I don't see where model support would come from since there is on the ECMWF and the GFS that go out that far.

I still say it will be something interesting to watch next week.
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1265. Floodman
7:23 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Not too bad...getting ready for what promises to be a somewhat active (for the CONUS) storm season...but they all promise, don't they?

Glad to be here, and see a lot of the same faces (or avatars, at least)...
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1264. TheCaneWhisperer
7:19 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
I know earlier it was said that there was no cyclonic turning with the TStorms in the SW Caribb. There is now? and appears to be starting up in the lower levels.

Anyone back this up or have I gone cross eyed from looking at CAD drawings all day.
1263. moonlightcowboy
2:22 PM CDT on May 20, 2008
1259. Nice post, Pat.
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1260. hahaguy
3:20 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
how about everyone cut this crap out lol
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
1259. Patrap
2:19 PM CDT on May 20, 2008


Image: Altimetry-derived sea surface height (color, yellows are higher and blues are lower) and surface current directions (arrows) highlight the Loop Current and a warm ring (around 89W, 27N) in the Gulf of Mexico. The trajectory over the warm ring corresponds to a surface drifter and confirms the altimetry estimates. Credit: NASA



Sea height anomaly on August 28, 2005. The path of Hurricane Katrina is indicated with circles spaced every 3 hours in the Gulf of Mexico and their size and color represent intensity (see legend). The hurricane intensified to category 5 as it passed near the warm core eddy of the Loop Current, then diminished to category 4 by the time it struck the coast. Image Credit:NASA

Heat in the Gulf NASA
09.16.05 Link

As Hurricane Katrina barreled down on the U.S. Gulf coast, with ultimately devastating consequences, many oceanographers and hurricane forecasters were paying close attention to the upper ocean thermal conditions in the Gulf of Mexico, as the intensification of other hurricanes in that same region had been linked to the oceanic heat content. Goni and other colleagues of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological (NOAA/AOML) were among them. Dr. Goni was able to monitor the change of intensity of Katrina as its path went over the warm waters of the Loop Current and a warm ring shed by this current a few months earlier.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129419
1257. Floodman
7:18 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
StormW, I'm glad to see you back in here...how have you been (aside from your pop, that is)?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1256. hurricane23
3:14 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
12z GFS does not even develop it anymore which keeps at 1009-1010mb weak low.As Storm mentioned this was likely feedback from the GFS model which makes perfect sense having poor model support.
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1255. CaneAddict
7:17 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Anyway folks, I am off for a bit, TheWeatherMan504, If i really came across mean yesterday and i hurt your feelings for correcting you, I apoligize.

BBL
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1253. Floodman
7:08 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
NoName, mail
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1252. CaneAddict
7:12 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
1248. TheWeatherMan504 7:08 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Uncalled for and not welcome in this blog. You will fastrack your way to a ban if you keep this up.

Yea he was realy mean to me yesterday.


No i wasent, All i said was for you to provide reasonable support with your statements....You can't expect people to have faith in your statements when your excuse for why convection would die with a wave is because it's not June.
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1251. Weather456
3:08 PM AST on May 20, 2008
u can see the low pressure spinning just offshore Nicaragua...Remains a rain event

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/watl/loop-rgb.html

http://www.ghcc.msfc.nasa.gov/GOES/goeseasthurr.html
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1250. Michfan
2:05 PM CDT on May 20, 2008
Current SST's



TCHP



Depth 26.C Isotherm


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1249. CaneAddict
7:07 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
hmmm hey caneaddict umm those thunderstorms with that cape verde wave that i said were gonna dissapate within 36hours and they did and i was right and u were wrong!

Wow trying to start trouble? For one, Your wrong, There is only one tropical wave in the Atlantic right now located near 48W. Also i agreed that thunderstorm activity would die down, I disagreed with the fact that you said that because it's June thunderstorm activity can't persist, Which was a very false statement. You also provided no reasonable support for what you said yesterday regarding this cluster of convection. (It's not a wave) I am not going to continue agruing with you though, Anyway good day all!
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1248. TheWeatherMan504
7:07 PM GMT on May 20, 2008
Uncalled for and not welcome in this blog. You will fastrack your way to a ban if you keep this up.

Yea he was realy mean to me yesterday.
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1247. Cazatormentas
7:05 PM GMT on Mayo 20, 2008
I would like to share with you an interesting issue about uncommon tropical cyclones, or tropical cyclones which don't develop over normal areas (like VINCE in 2005).

In this way, Spanish and American experts have been working on another interesting case: 24-29th October 1842: then, those experts have researched on the case of a tropical cyclone hitting Spain, 170 years ago.

It has been said that the storm developed at the southwest of Madeira and it moved to the Iberian Peninsula, hitting land from the Cadiz Gulf. Those experts consider it hit Spain as a hurricane category and damages could be compare with the damages caused by a category 2 hurricane.

With VINCE, it was said it had been the first tropical cyclone to hit Spain... But it seems that it was not like that :)

Has someone more information of that 1842 atlantic hurricane season? There is few data on Internet, only some papers and documents.

Link

We have been talking about this in our forum:

Link

Saludos desde España
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1246. Michfan
2:03 PM CDT on May 20, 2008
First picture is supposed to say BEFORE Katrina.
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1245. hurricane23
3:04 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
Good afternoon!

The disturbed weather in the SW caribbean to me is likely to move onshore before anything can get going on the atlantic side.Once it moves out into the pacific i think it may have a shot at being the first storm system for the pacific.

Here is the TAFB showing it moving onshore soon.

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1243. Michfan
2:02 PM CDT on May 20, 2008
1240. TheWeatherMan504 2:02 PM CDT on May 20, 2008
hmmm hey caneaddict umm those thunderstorms with that cape verde wave that i said were gonna dissapate and they are i was right and u were wrong!



Uncalled for and not welcome in this blog. You will fastrack your way to a ban if you keep this up.
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1242. hahaguy
3:02 PM EDT on May 20, 2008
thank goodness what
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1241. Michfan
1:47 PM CDT on May 20, 2008
Crimson75 those are very good questions. I think your pretty right on with #2 in that Felix and Dean churned up the Carribean very well and brought up alot of the cooler deep water but if i remember correctly that redistribution only tends to affect that current hurricane season rather than subsequent ones.

Good paper on the effects of Katrina on SSTs:

http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/altimetry/katrina1.pdf


SST's after Katrina:



SST's after Katrina:



30 days later:



August of 2006 SST's in the Gulf of Mexico:

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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