Iceland: the ashes of the volcano could change weather and climate.

Tatiana Antonelli Abella / April 18, 2010

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We risk a year without summer and with continuous rains, but among scientists there are those who think the cloud will regenerate the environment…

Cooler, more rain, the large Icelandic volcanic eruption could have serious consequences on the climate, especially the European one. In fact, the eruption of a volcano may cause changes in a region’s weather and even change, in the long run, the climate of an entire continent. The huge ash cloud obscures the sun, disrupting air currents, changing the humidity and gases upward, condensing, turning into heavy rain drops black as ink rather than becoming transparent and light.

Can the climate change?
It seems there could be a fundamental long-term climate change depending on the amount of ashes that are ejected from the volcano. These can prevent sunlight to filter down to the ground, reflecting a part outwards and as a result, average temperatures could decrease and the first consequence would be the inevitable increase in precipitations.

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According to scientists, if the conditions remain the same, Northern Europe climate will not change. It depends on the altitude the dust reaches and so far it appears that the cloud has only reached low altitudes. When the dust reaches the stratosphere, the highest of 10/12 miles, it can stay in suspension for a long time (1 or 2 years) and may cause darkening of the sun and therefore a climate change. That’s what happened in Indonesia in the last century when a volcano erupted and for 2 years there was no summer in that part of the world, the powder was suspended for a long period, shielding the sun. The ashes of the Icelandic volcano however are at a much lower level, between 6 and 8 km: the dust should remain in the troposphere and back onto the ground in the space of 20 days. Admittedly, it is a major problem for air traffic, but luckily not for the climate.

In the past.
In 1991, after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, the global temperature dropped by half a degree and in 1982, the eruption of El Chichon in Mexico brought down the temperature an average of 0.2 degrees. Even in 1783, the awakening volcano Laki in Iceland resulted in a particularly harsh winter. In 1816, the “year without summer”, the volcano Tambor in Indonesia had an immense eruption that caused rain, hail and even snow from April to September in Europe and North America, due to probably more than 100 cubic kilometers of ashes into the air.

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The cloud will be good for the environment.
In this case it shouldn’t be a problem for the climate and indeed, environmentally, the Icelandic volcano’s eruption will be almost a blessing. Other than climate disruptions, ash and sand emitted into the atmosphere falling into the ground will bring several benefits, the first of which is a more fertile land. These days floods caused by melting glaciers batter Iceland, but peasants and farmers living in areas reached by the ash cloud may bless the eruption for years. These volcanic sands are rich in heavy metals and once they fall into the ground they will be an extraordinary agricultural fertilizer. Not surprisingly, anywhere in the world, the most fertile areas are the slopes of the volcanoes.

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