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Could volcanoes stop global warming?

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Could volcanoes offset the effects of global warming. It may be possible, according to a recently published report.

Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder say they are searching for clues as to why Earth failed to warm as much as scientists predicted between 2000 and 2010.  While previous studies have pinpointed a number of causes, the scientists now say dozens of volcanoes spewing sulfur dioxide are the main culprit.

Lead study author Ryan Neely, who led the research as part of his CU-Boulder doctoral thesis, has exonerated Asia — which is estimated to have increased their industrial sulfur dioxide emissions by about 60 percent from 2000 to 2010 through coal burning — saying small particles of sulfur dioxide emissions ejected from volcanoes may be behind the cooling trend.

According to Neely, sulfur dioxide emissions ejected through volcanoes eventually rise 12 to 20 miles into the stratospheric aerosol layer of the atmosphere, where chemical reactions create sulfuric acid and water particles that reflect sunlight back to space, cooling the planet. The resulting chemical reaction cools Earth’s upper atmosphere, creating a global cooling effect that seems to counter global warming trends.

In order to crack the code of cooler-than-predicted temperatures, Neely and his team built on a 2011 study that examined the ability of stratospheric aerosols to offset about a quarter of the greenhouse effect warming on Earth. Using a pair of sophisticated computer models, including the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model  (WACCM) and the Community Aerosol and Radiation Model for Atmosphere (CARMA), the researchers were able to calculate properties of specific aerosols over the course of the past two decades. The data was then compared to models predicting changes in the atmosphere caused by increased coal burning in emerging economies  such as India and China. Using the Janus supercomputer, the research team conducted seven computer trials, each simulating ten years of atmospheric activity tied to both coal-burning activities in Asia.

The study comes as a number of countries around the world have sought to curtail the effects of global warming. A recently published study on Antarctic ice suggests that increases in the rate of warming that halted the last ice age correlated with increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the latest indication that massive amounts of carbon dioxide could be responsible for current warming trends.

It remains unclear whether the impact of volcanoes on global warming is a long-term trend, say researchers. A number of studies have pointed to past volcano explosions as a driving force for global climate change, a finding that seems to suggest a tipping points of sorts when it comes to emission limits.

That said, this is not the first report to draw a connection between volcanoes and their ability to curb the impacts of global warming. A volcanic plume of iron-laden ash from a 2008 Alaskan volcano eruption led to an unprecedentedly huge bloom of photosynthetic ocean plankton that fed off the ash. The natural phenomenon was akin to a geoengineering scenario proposed by some researchers who want to fight global warming by spurring the growth of marine plants that can suck carbon dioxide from the air. Meanwhile, another study has asserted that volcanic eruptions may be triggered by bouts of global warming.

by on Mar. 3, 2013 at 9:30 AM
Replies (31-32):
by Thatwoman on Mar. 3, 2013 at 8:58 PM

Last I heard (from the nihilist physicists...) an increase of 10% in volcanic activity on Earth and we're done: there would be no habitable parts of the Earth for people.

by Platinum Member on Mar. 3, 2013 at 9:17 PM


No, seriously, what? 

Quoting kailu1835:

They don't know for sure what's causing it, or whether or not we are doing it. It's a lot of propaganda. They have yet to be able to isolate one single gas and attribute global warming to it.
Quoting mehamil1:

I think they know what's causing it. This is now beyond doubt. We're doing it. 

Quoting kailu1835:

The theory of global warming can't even be proven using the scientific process. It is completely impossible to isolate even one so-called "greenhouse gas" to prove that it has anything whatsoever to do with global warming. It's a guessing game if anything. "We THINK that these gases are what is causing the earth to warm, and we THINK that humans are causing it" is the best they can do while being factual, AND they have to ignore the fact that the earth's temperatures go in cycles, and it was not that long ago they were warning us about an impending ice age before switching their tune.
Quoting mehamil1:

Yeah. The vast majority of scientists, the leading minds among us backed up by mounds of evidence and research going back to the 1960s, all made up fairy tales. 

Quoting JCB911:

Great then we can have global cooling again.

When Krakatoa erupted - in 1883.  It had global consequences,  cooling to be specific - extremely harsh winters.  Previous volcanoes are believed to have been the causes of historic great famines, b/c of the cooling effect, and the effect on agriculture.

So, no thank you, I'll take global warming - which is easy to take because it's a make-believe.  So, I'll continue not worrying about a made up catastrophe. 

And what a great article to ease all your global-warming-worried minds -the Earth will take care of itself, it is resilient. 

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