How a violent volcanic eruption in Bali could cool the climate



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Scientists are carefully watching the eruption of Mount Agung, the Bali volcano that spewed ashes at least four miles into the sky and is now shaking the popular holiday island with violent tremors.

These earthquakes may augur an even greater eruption, while mbadive amounts of pressurized and hot magma swirl beneath the volcano.

Already, Mount Agung has affected the local population, causing evacuations and polluting the air. But explosive volcanoes like this, which had a large eruption in 1963, also have the potential to cool the global climate for one or two years.

However, an eruption that causes a remarkable, albeit temporary, cooling of the Earth has little to do with the sinister columns of dark ash that are thrown into the air.

"Ash does not matter," said Alan Robock, an environmental scientist at Rutgers University and an expert on how volcanoes affect our climate. In an interview.

Instead, the impeller of such cooling is a mbadive infusion of an invisible gas, sulfur dioxide, into the upper atmosphere over our clouds, rain and weather. "What matters is the chemistry of the things that are expelled, and how they are expelled," Robock said.

If a volcano does not blow this invisible gas about 12 or 13 miles from the atmosphere, a region called the stratosphere, then gas and particulate matter will not have the opportunity to cool the Earth. "It has to be a very strong explosive feather or a jet of gases," Robock explained.

The Mount St. Helens explosion in 1980 – the most disastrous eruption in the history of the United States. UU – He sent hundreds of miles to the sky, knocked down millions of trees, scattered ashes in 11 states and destroyed a good portion of the mountain. But the eruption did not send much sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, so the eruption did not have a temporary global cooling effect.

  The violent eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 produced a mbadive ash cloud and expelled tremendous amounts of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

The violent eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 produced a mbadive ash cloud and expelled tremendous amounts of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

Once high in the sky, sulfur dioxide reacts with water and produces droplets that can be delayed for a year or more, Robock said. And when sunlight strikes these droplets, energy is reflected in space, depriving the Earth of substantial amounts of sunlight.

After one or two years, these water droplets infused with sulfur dioxide grow too much and return to Earth.

So, if Mount Agung erupts violently, but does not send mbadive amounts of sulfur dioxide into the air, or does not send it high enough, a longer-term global effect is unlikely.

However, if this eruption is similar to the previous eruptions of this volcano, it is likely to shoot a large amount of sulfur dioxide into the air.

"We know that Agung put a lot of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere in 1963, so we know he has the right chemistry," Robock said. "But there has to be a much bigger rash than what has happened up until now."

  Abnormalities of average global surface temperature with volcanic eruptions represented.

Average global anomalies of surface temperature with volcanic eruptions represented.

Image: ipcc fourth evaluation report 2007.

Unlike volcanoes, for example, Alaska, the erupting gases of Agung would also have a lot of help to be transported around the world and reflect even more sunlight. Bali is located in the tropics, and the high stratospheric winds here "would gradually fly around the world to both hemispheres," Robock said.

In addition, he notes, the tropics harbor abundant sunlight throughout the year, so a large amount of solar energy would be constantly removed by the high-altitude sulfur dioxide droplets.

If this happened, as in the scale of the 1991 Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines, which sent 20 billion tons of sulfur dioxide to the sky, the cooling would be remarkable. The average global temperature would be about one degree Fahrenheit colder, but in the interior of North America or Asia, temperatures could be up to five degrees colder during the summer, says Robock.

But before temporary global cooling can occur, Mount Agung would first need to erupt much more violently. For now, as the inhabitants of Bali flee from the immediate areas to the volcano, they certainly threaten it.

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