A new study by scientists at the University of Virginia (UVa) in Charlottesville and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, suggests that explosive volcanic eruptions in the tropics may increase the probability of an El Niño event occurring during the winter following the eruption. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
"The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the dominant mode of interannual climate variability on the planet," says NCAR scientist Caspar Ammann. "When thinking about long-term climate, we must ask whether this system itself undergoes changes, perhaps in response to changes in radiative forcing or in the background climate itself. Our findings, based on two reconstructions, suggest that it indeed might."
When a volcano erupts in the tropics, its aerosol emissions spread into the stratosphere across the northern and southern hemispheres, reflecting some of the suns heat back toward space and thereby cooling the Earths atmosphere. This cooling alters the interaction between the oceans and atmosphere, possibly encouraging a warming response in the Pacific Ocean as the massive body of water attempts to restore an initial equilibrium.
Cheryl Dybas | NSF
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