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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890. CaneAddict
12:01 AM GMT on May 20, 2008
Guys and Gals,
I am off to the shower but as promised i will make an update on my blog featuring the current areas of interest in the Atlantic.

BBL
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2151
889. TerraNova
12:00 AM GMT on May 20, 2008
I shouldn't say this, but my stomach is turning over StormW.

I hope he's alright...
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
888. HurricaneSammy
12:00 AM GMT on May 20, 2008
...Tropical waves...
A tropical wave is along 43w S of 12n moving W 10 kt. Satellite
imagery shows very low-amplitude to the wave with some cyclonic
turning along the wave axis near 7n. Small bulge of moisture is
evident on the mimic-tpw product from CIMSS with only scattered
showers from 2n-8n between 40w-45w. Most likely any
precipitation is embedded within the ITCZ.
A tropical wave is in the Caribbean Sea along 67w S of 13n
moving W 10 kt. Much of the wave is inland over central
Venezuela...which will make it difficult to track for the next
couple of days. This wave may be enhancing convection W of the
axis over W Venezuela.

..the ITCZ...
ITCZ axis is centered along 5n9w 5n20w 3n30w 4n40w 4n45w and
into NE Brazil near 3n52w. Clusters of moderate to strong
convection are within 150-180 nm on either side of the axis
between 13w-21w. Similar convection is from eq-6n between the
prime Meridian and 5w. Also scattered moderate convection is
from 4n-6n between 47w-49w.
887. nash28
11:59 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
I shouldn't say this, but my stomach is turning over StormW.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
886. hahaguy
11:59 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
nash are you a fan of the red wings or stars?
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
885. CaneAddict
11:58 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
THE ITCZ...
ITCZ AXIS IS CENTERED ALONG 5N9W 5N20W 3N30W 4N40W 4N45W AND
INTO NE BRAZIL NEAR 3N52W. CLUSTERS OF MODERATE TO STRONG
CONVECTION ARE WITHIN 150-180 NM ON EITHER SIDE OF THE AXIS
BETWEEN 13W-21W. SIMILAR CONVECTION IS FROM EQ-6N BETWEEN THE
PRIME MERIDIAN AND 5W. ALSO SCATTERED MODERATE CONVECTION IS
FROM 4N-6N BETWEEN 47W-49W.


I guess the NHC has not found enough evidence to classify the organized convection off the coast of Africa a tropical wave. They did'nt even mention it this time.
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2151
883. nash28
11:57 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
I'll flip around Adrian. Watching Game 6 of the WCF between Red Wings-Stars.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
882. TerraNova
11:56 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Guys, Seriously, does this Western Carribean disturbance show potential for development next week, cause i'm here in Southeast Florida and i'm already a little bit concerned folks believe it or not.

It's too early to be concerned...it's a long range forecast, and long range forecasts (as I'm sure you know) have a significant chance of not playing out. Regardless of consistency. I'd wait until next week until I'd start being concerned...by then, we'll have input from the other models (currently, we only really have the GFS and the ECMWF maximum range).

Even if something did form, it would likely be heavily sheared and intially in a fight for energy with a system in the EPAC, so I doubt it would be stronger than a Tropical Storm.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
881. hurricane23
11:56 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Hey Andy are you watching game 7 ?
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13839
880. hahaguy
11:56 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
ya me to
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
879. MichaelSTL
11:56 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
869. hurricane23 6:50 PM CDT on May 19, 2008
I don't beleive the MJO really affects the Atlantic because the signal is so weak when it reaches our basin.


I doubt that... just recently it was over the Atlantic and presto! - convection fires up everywhere.



Also, on maps like the above, the anomaly magnitudes can be just as high over the Atlantic as over the West Pacific. It is indeed very important for tropical cyclone formation:

The phase of the MJO is also extremely important for assessing whether conditions are conducive to tropical storm development over the tropical and subtropical North Pacific and North Atlantic ocean basins. For example, MJO-related descending motion over the tropical Atlantic is not favorable for tropical storm development, whereas MJO-related ascending motion over the North Atlantic is quite favorable for tropical storm development. The MJO is monitored routinely by both the USA National Hurricane Center and the USA Climate Prediction Center during the Atlantic hurricane (tropical cyclone) season to aid in anticipating periods of relative activity or inactivity.
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
878. CaneAddict
11:55 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
872. nash28 11:51 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Ok guys..... DO NOT OVERREACT TO THIS!!!!!!

I just spoke to StormW's wife.. I asked if he was there. She had a hesitant nature to her voice. She said "I am not sure.... Hang on..." About a minute later, she came back and said "no he's not here." I said "ok, didn't mean to bother just let him know Andy from WU called to see how he was doing." That was it.

I didn't like the quiver in the voice... I say again... DO NOT FREAK OUT!!! He's probably just out with his kids.


I am seriously getting concerned about him...
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2151
877. Drakoen
11:55 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
872. nash28 11:51 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Ok guys..... DO NOT OVERREACT TO THIS!!!!!!

I just spoke to StormW's wife.. I asked if he was there. She had a hesitant nature to her voice. She said "I am not sure.... Hang on..." About a minute later, she came back and said "no he's not here." I said "ok, didn't mean to bother just let him know Andy from WU called to see how he was doing." That was it.

I didn't like the quiver in the voice... I say again... DO NOT FREAK OUT!!! He's probably just out with his kids.


If he is just out with his kids then he has been out with them for a long time...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30614
876. CaneAddict
11:52 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
862. cycloone 11:42 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
I'm not convinced a storm will form


Were'nt you one last year to say everything would'nt form? If not correct me, I mean no offense.
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2151
875. Tazmanian
11:52 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
so when will we see 90L
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115351
874. mermaidlaw
11:51 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Hello everyone. Looks like it's that time again. I sure hope you all are prepared, and stay safe!

Thanks to all of you that give us good information!
Member Since: July 23, 2006 Posts: 20 Comments: 8814
872. nash28
11:51 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Ok guys..... DO NOT OVERREACT TO THIS!!!!!!

I just spoke to StormW's wife.. I asked if he was there. She had a hesitant nature to her voice. She said "I am not sure.... Hang on..." About a minute later, she came back and said "no he's not here." I said "ok, didn't mean to bother just let him know Andy from WU called to see how he was doing." That was it.

I didn't like the quiver in the voice... I say again... DO NOT FREAK OUT!!! He's probably just out with his kids.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
871. MichaelSTL
11:51 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
867. HurricaneSammy 6:48 PM CDT on May 19, 2008
Is the Community Chat Down?


Do people still actually use that?
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
869. hurricane23
11:50 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
I don't believe the MJO really affects the Atlantic because the signal is so weak when it reaches our basin.

Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13839
868. JRRP
11:49 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
i forget the 2004

Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6161
867. HurricaneSammy
11:48 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Is the Community Chat Down?
866. TheWeatherMan504
11:48 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
I am wondering if florida is gonna get effected by the first storm of the season for the fourth year in a row?
2005-TS Arlene
2006-TS Alberto
2007-SubTS Andrea
2008-TS Arthur?????
Member Since: May 18, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 1042
864. 882MB
11:46 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Well I have to go we"ll tomorrow about the disturbance!
Member Since: September 29, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 407
863. HurricaneSammy
11:43 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
I Know you Have Shown Us The Convection and the things that could help it happen and happen

BUT WHAT IS THE SHEAR AND DRY AREA AROUND THERE?

And other factors that inhibit Development in the Area
862. cycloone
11:42 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
I'm not convinced a storm will form
Member Since: March 2, 2003 Posts: 65 Comments: 1009
861. 882MB
11:41 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Hurricane 23,do u have any images of how the MJO will affect the SW CARRIBEAN disturbance,
because I know it can enhance alot of convection.
Member Since: September 29, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 407
860. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
11:39 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
its gettin close now taz
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54838
858. Tazmanian
11:36 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
well looks like its hurricane season heh with evere one in here
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115351
857. HurricaneSammy
11:34 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
I second That Notion But a little Souther Because South Florida needs more rain then the north

FlWeathfreak ....
856. HurricaneRoman
11:34 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Heyyy.
just stopping by to say , its been many months since ive commented. :P
Im still with u guys and like most of us, will be more active during the season.
Member Since: February 25, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 959
855. FLWeatherFreak91
11:33 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
800. cchsweatherman 6:45 PM EDT on May 19, 2008 Hide this comment.
Through 276hrs, the GFS has a tropical cyclone just off the SE Florida coastline with a very sheared appearance.


Well, I hope we get a sheared system JUST like this one:

Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3631
854. 882MB
11:33 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
life is really tough!hurricane23
Member Since: September 29, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 407
852. 882MB
11:30 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
thanks StormJunkie,
Member Since: September 29, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 407
851. HurricaneSammy
11:30 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
SW is Nice, He Answered My Questions

I wonder if he Is Ok , !
850. JRRP
11:28 PM GMT on Mayo 19, 2008
the analogous years (SST)




Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6161
849. hurricane23
7:23 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13839
848. HurricaneSammy
11:25 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
GFS! its picking something up again? Wow ... This Might Be a Problem So Lets See if the "System Hits Fl?"

Just wondering , Do not put my head through the wall
847. 882MB
11:26 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
my dad past away in february he was 89!
Member Since: September 29, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 407
846. StormJunkie
11:25 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
I know you will give us an update when you can.

Thanks nash!
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
845. StormJunkie
11:23 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Evening 882, good to see ya back around.

Sorry to hear about your dad. I know how tough that can be.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
844. nash28
11:23 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
No. I didn't want to come off as too forward, but I am calling again now and will leave a message.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
843. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
7:22 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
i got a bad feeling nash i have been emailing sw as well no response for the last 5 days
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54838
842. hurricane23
7:21 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
839. 882MB 7:20 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
good just been really sad my dad past away!

Oh man iam so sorry to hear that....How are you holding up?My dad pasted away about a year ago so i can relate to your pain.He was only 54.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13839
841. StormJunkie
11:21 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Thanks nash, me too. You leave a message?
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
840. nash28
11:20 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
SJ- No. I tried twice. No answer at the homestead. I am concerned.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972

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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.