Volcanic eruptions may be an agent of rapid and long-term climate change, according to new research by British scientists. Vincent Gauci and co-authors Nancy Dise and Steve Blake of the Open University simulated the volcanic acid rain from one of Europes largest historical eruptions, the Icelandic Laki eruption of 1783, which caused widespread crop damage and deaths around Europe. Their finding are scheduled for publication in the American Geophysical Union journal, Geophysical Research Letters, later this month.
Gauci says, "we know that volcanic aerosol [airborne] particles reflect the Suns rays back out to space and also create more clouds that have the same effect. It all helps to cool the planet for a year or two. These simple physical relationships have been known for a while. Our findings show that volcanic eruptions have another, more indirect, effect: the resulting sulfuric acid from the volcano helps to biologically reduce an important source of atmospheric greenhouse gases. At the extreme, this effect could cause significant cooling for up to 10 years or more."
Blake says, "The amount of sulfur dioxide put out by Laki in nine months was ten times more than the amount that now comes from all of western European industrial sources in a year. That would have caused a major natural pollution event."
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