Chile's volcano not likely to affect the climate

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:01 PM GMT en Mayo 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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590. Patrap
3:24 PM CDT on May 19, 2008
Wilma..

Member Since: Julio 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
589. CaneAddict
8:23 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
522. HouseofGryffindor 7:44 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
513. jphurricane2006 7:39 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Obama says he is the wings of change, all I say is I will believe it when I see and I hope he doesnt change his colors after being elected.

Most young people go with Obama, becuase is the cool hip younger candidate, good luck with those issues, I dont think he is strong enough to get the job done when it gets down to crunch time

And you think McBush - oops I mean McCain will be any better? Age has nothing to do with it. Obama has character while Weathervane McCain seems to go whichever way the wind blows.


You know just for the hell of it and since afterall politics, gas prices, oild prices and so on are all in some type of way linked to tropical activity, I am going to add a Political Forum to my site, Anyone think that sounds good? And then everyone can take this agrument of who will be better as president can take this to my site! (No offense to you HoG)
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587. Patrap
3:21 PM CDT on May 19, 2008
Hurricane Image Archive Link
Member Since: Julio 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
583. SouthDadeFish
8:14 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
GS I completely agree with you. I hope you didn't think that I took the recent GFS and ECMWF runs as fact. ;~)
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582. TerraNova
4:21 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
Thanks Drak.
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580. Drakoen
8:20 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
575. TerraNova 8:19 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Does anybody have a link to site that can compare this year's SST's to other years?


Link

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579. Patrap
3:20 PM CDT on May 19, 2008
Member Since: Julio 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
578. Drakoen
8:18 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
TCHP show an notable increase from last month.
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577. KarenRei
8:17 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Weather456: Impressive convection on that blob, no? A little shear has dipped into it from the south, thankfully, but not much.
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575. TerraNova
4:18 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
Does anybody have a link to site that can compare this year's SST's to other years?
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574. hurricane23
4:19 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
Here's a pretty good loop showing this disturbed area of thunderstorms down in the SW caribbean.

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572. Weather456
4:10 PM AST on May 19, 2008
..THE ITCZ...
ITCZ AXIS IS CENTERED ALONG 5N10W 4N23W 3N36W 4N44W 3N51W.
CLUSTERS OF MODERATE TO STRONG CONVECTION ARE FROM EQUATOR TO 8N
BETWEEN 4W-15W. PART OF THIS ACTIVITY IS AFFECTING SW AFRICA
INCLUDING LIBERIA. THIS CONVECTIVE ACTIVITY MAY BE ASSOCIATED
WITH A NEW TROPICAL WAVE.
UPPER DIFFLUENCE ASSOCIATED WITH AN
UPPER HIGH LOCATED OVER W AFRICA NEAR 12N15W IS HELPING TO
INDUCE THIS ACTIVITY.

And the most impressive of the season


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571. Patrap
3:17 PM CDT on May 19, 2008
The GFS is Keeping her Cards close.

I'd spect another hand will tell if she's Bluffing.
I..Reckon.
Member Since: Julio 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
570. TampaSpin
4:16 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
Patrap, you have never given RAMPID speculation, please give us one now on the tropics.
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569. KarenRei
8:00 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Tampa: Carribean/Gulf SSTs are similar to 2004, too. '04 wasn't a pretty year, with some of the most expensive US hurricanes in history (#3 Charlie, #6 Frances, #4 Ivan, #7 Jeanne... poor Florida :P), and steering currents look worse this year. Central Atlantic looks hotter, too. The season did have a late start, though.

Come on, shear -- won't you stick around? :)
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568. Drakoen
8:15 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Lets not make a big deal out of what the GFS is showing. I think pretty much all of us know the issues with the long-range forecast. It is the thought that the GFS is even showing anything after 5-6 months of inactivity is whats most interesting if anything at all.
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567. Patrap
3:14 PM CDT on May 19, 2008
Frequency..Like in FM 99.5,or as in repetition?

I feel so ignent

LSU ESL site Link
Member Since: Julio 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
566. TampaSpin
4:14 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
GSMan what........ROFLMAO
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565. Greyelf
3:01 PM CDT on May 19, 2008
Please. No more politics. I'm not coming to this blog to read opinions on politics. If I want that, I'll go to almost any other blog. The frequency of GW stuff here is bad enough, but at least it is weather related.
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564. TampaSpin
4:11 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
Come on someone make a "RAMPID speculation." I have been blogged harshly before, not me......lmao
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562. Patrap
3:13 PM CDT on May 19, 2008
If the NAO ever got close to theTWO, and the TWD found out.

I bet the MJO would go BAMM and that would be a Vary interesting...PDF.
Member Since: Julio 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
561. Drakoen
8:09 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Looks like the EPAC will get their first storm before us If the GFS hold true.
I still notice though that the GFS wants to develop that system in the EPAC which I will be interested in. Its seems to develop the EPAC system at an earlier date giving way to another area of low pressure to cross over into the Caribbean. Kind of interesting that our first Caribbean storm maybe be from an area of low pressure in the EPAC.
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560. pottery
4:08 PM AST on May 19, 2008
OOOOh. and look. People are using RAMPID in different contex already. This is wanderfool.
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559. hurricane23
4:09 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
Lets remember the NAO has specific affects on the bermuda high with a positive NAO resulting in the high being shifted to the east and intensifiying allowing for tropical cyclones to recurve away from the united states while a negative NAO tends to open the door for a more westward bermuda high which forces tropical cyclones towards the U.S.
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558. SouthDadeFish
8:08 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
544. hurricane23 7:53 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
538. SouthDadeFish 3:51 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
518. hurricane23 7:43 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Those waves are rather impressive for mid may and the frequency on how there rolling of the coast is also interesting for this time of the year.

Is there any significance to this in terms of whats to come later in the year?

Thats a tough question but i suspect this year the eastern atlantic has the potential to be rather active.


Well I just hope this year doesn't turn out to be like 1995 was.... Link
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557. pottery
4:00 PM AST on May 19, 2008
Gulf @ 532......

"RAMPID speculation"..........
I LOVE that word.

heheheheh
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556. Weather456
4:04 PM AST on May 19, 2008
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555. TampaSpin
4:04 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
552. SouthDadeFish 4:02 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
GS,

No one here is making rampid speculation about this model forecast. I said that anything 200 hours out is incredibly inaccurate. No one here is talking about the butterfly effect. I just want people to focus on tropical weather, which is what this blog was created for. If Wunderground wanted people to talk politics they would make a seperate blog for this.



SouthDade chill....as most have said its way to early to make a forecast.
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553. Drakoen
7:59 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
546. TerraNova 7:56 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Neutral conditions just as expected. Neutral years have a lot of activity. And the way things are looking we are in for an interesting season.

2004 also had a negative NAO around this time, didn't it?

Is the current SOI indicating a trend towards a warm anomaly or has it balanced out at a weaker La Nina/Neutral?

I'm not sure that 2004 had a negative NAO at this time but I would assume so.


The SOI is still in the positive range although in a downward trend. I know some of you don't like this but I will say that 2005 had a negative SOI values in April and May and then weak positive values for the remainder of the season. 2004 have a negative SOI but it wasn't too terribly strong and you can see what the impact were to the U.S.A.
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552. SouthDadeFish
7:58 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
GS,

No one here is making rampid speculation about this model forecast. I said that anything 200 hours out is incredibly inaccurate. No one here is talking about the butterfly effect. I just want people to focus on tropical weather, which is what this blog was created for. If Wunderground wanted people to talk politics they would make a seperate blog for this.
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551. Patrap
2:56 PM CDT on May 19, 2008

We used to track canes with Pigeons and Quija Boards mostly before Tiros-7.

All this new fangled stuff is smoke and Mirrors.
Either its coming or its not.

Its gonna be big.
Or Just a lil one.
Then there was the Ones Like Camille..and the Keys Big un.

Shoot.If ya see the Birds have left and the wind is from the Se and the High clouds are moving in...and dat Lil Bulb of stuff is falling fast.
High tail it outta Savannah Goober and Gomer.

Time to Head to Raleigh and visit fer a spell with da Kin.
Ahh,..the good ol Days.
Member Since: Julio 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
550. TampaSpin
3:58 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
Drak that appears if my memory is correct almost dido 2004
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549. Floodman
7:57 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
543. jphurricane2006

Way too early to tell, but damned if the tropics aren't starting to heat up a bit...
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548. Drakoen
7:57 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Hers what the April runs look like. You notice you have some that deviate into El Nino. You can see the models have come into better agreement than April on how the season is going to shape up as far as the ENSO conditions.
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546. TerraNova
3:53 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
Neutral conditions just as expected. Neutral years have a lot of activity. And the way things are looking we are in for an interesting season.

2004 also had a negative NAO around this time, didn't it?

Is the current SOI indicating a trend towards a warm anomaly or has it balanced out at a weaker La Nina/Neutral?
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545. Drakoen
7:52 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
534. TerraNova 7:50 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
sdf once it gets to 144 hrs out then we may have something

The GFS goes into medium, higher resolution mode at 180 hours. If it's still showing a storm when it gets into that time frame and the ECMWF still shows signs of activity in the Caribbean, then it'd start thinking that the GFS may be on to something. Right now it's still in the long range and we've already seen the model drop it once, and chances are still significant that it's on to a ghost.




You have a point. And I think the ECMWF has the best resolution out of all of the models.
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544. hurricane23
3:52 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
538. SouthDadeFish 3:51 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
518. hurricane23 7:43 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Those waves are rather impressive for mid may and the frequency on how there rolling of the coast is also interesting for this time of the year.

Is there any significance to this in terms of whats to come later in the year?

Thats a tough question but i suspect this year the eastern atlantic has the potential to be rather active.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
542. TampaSpin
3:51 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
535. jphurricane2006 3:50 PM EDT on May 19, 2008
lol GS, well said...err I think lol


This blog today probably increased Global warming, you think.....lol
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541. Drakoen
7:50 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
523. presslord 7:45 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
Drak....Could I talk you into elaborating a little on what that means?


Neutral conditions just as expected. Neutral years have a lot of activity. And the way things are looking we are in for an interesting season.
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540. Floodman
7:49 PM GMT on May 19, 2008
530. jphurricane2006

Agreed...another 2004 type season would be very interesting, in a Chinese curse sort of way, huh?
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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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