Volcanic Emissions and Global Cooling Essay

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Volcanic Emissions

As volcanoes erupt, they blast huge clouds into the atmosphere. These clouds are made up of particles and gases that were previously trapped in the geosphere, including sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, chlorine, argon, carbon monoxide, and water vapor. Millions of tons of harmful sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide gas can reach the stratosphere from a major volcano. While all these gases play a small part in volcanic-induced climate change, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide are by far the largest contributors to global cooling.
Carbon Dioxide
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Ozone is a natural absorbant of solar radiation, so when it is replaced by reflective aerosols the total radiative energy in the atmosphere decreases, resulting in global cooling. The following diagrams illustrate this transformation of sulfur dioxide into the aerosols that destroy ozone:

Examples of Global Cooling

One of the greatest examples of the global cooling caused by volcanic eruptions occurred in 1816, known as “The Year without a Summer” (http://itg1.meteor.wisc.edu/wxwise/museum/a5/a5volcan.html). One year after Mount Tambora erupted in Indonesia its effects were already being felt globally. In New England snow fell in July of 1816, with temperatures reaching the 30’s. Both Europe and America faced economic hardships as a result of premature frosts destroying large amounts of crops. Some scientist also believe that the eruption of Mt. Toba in Sumatra 73,500 years ago may have cooled the planet by 3-5 degrees Celsius, resulting in a 'volcanic winter'. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the past century. The injection of between 14-26 million tons of sulfur into the stratosphere resulted in a global surface cooling of 0.5 degrees Celsius one year after the

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