Climate Modification and Volcanoes

Climate modification is a multi-faceted and complex subject. In this article, we take a look at the relationship between climate modification and volcanoes.

Climate Modification and Volcanoes

The climate modification debate is a nasty one. Parties pick their positions, dig in and refuse to listen to the rants of the other side. Lost in the yelling is the simple fact that climate modification is a natural phenomenon to some extent. For proof, we need merely look at the materials kicked out by volcanoes.

It is an undeniable fact of the earth record that volcanoes have changed the climate during certain periods. Small explosions don’t have much impact, but large explosions send massive amounts of material and gases into the atmosphere. The gases include carbon dioxide, the ultimate bugaboo greenhouse gas. Beyond these gases, however, volcanoes can kick out so much debris and ash that the material in the atmosphere can actually block out the sun or reduce the warming effect.

Mount St. Helens is the most studied and well known recent eruption. Unless you have been meditating in a cave for the last 20 years, you know that the volcano exploded on May 18, 1980. The eruption was powerful enough to flatten everything for 17 miles, immediately turning 10 million trees into so much firewood. The huge volcanic ash cloud stretched halfway across the United States, but barely had an impact on global temperatures.

In contrast, the eruption of the El Chichon volcano in 1982 had a measurable climate impact. El Chichon is located in Mexico and was a much smaller eruption than Mount St. Helens. Still, the average temperature around the globe cooled by one degree. What scientist learned is the climate modification impact of volcanoes is highly dependent on the type of explosion. The materials from Mount St. Helens fell out of the atmosphere quickly, while El Chichon belched enormous amounts of sulfur that remained in the atmosphere for much longer.

One of the problems with climate modification is it occurs over a relatively long period of time. Since we started paying attention to the situation, we have not had a chance to see the impact of a major eruption. The stuff we see on television is really small potatoes compared to historically eruptions of note. For example, Mount St. Helens threw roughly a half a cubic mile of material into the air. In 1815, a volcano in Indonesia belched 24 cubic miles of material into the atmosphere. Obviously, one has to imagine it impacted the climate of the earth.

Is there a relationship between climate modification and volcanoes? Undoubtedly. From what we see, however, the relationship is generally of a short duration and not an explanation for the rising temperatures we are seeing currently.

Rick Chapo is with SolarCompanies.com, a directory of solar energy companies. Visit us to read more articles on solar power and global warming and volcanoes.

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