Volcanoes and Climate


In May, Kilauea began erupting.  At first just a increased spew of lava, nothing big and then it began an explosive eruption and on it’s heels, del Fuego in Gautemala had an explosive eruption, and the threat at Nevada del Ruiz in Colombia has increased.

Super volcanoes change climate.  They create something known as nuclear weather; cool summers, frigid winters, flooding, and the shortened growth season means stunted crops.  It’s a world wide event.  Economic panics have been known to ride the backs of these eruptions.

None of the aforementioned volcanoes fall into the super volcano designation.  They are just regular volcanoes that occasionally erupt.  The Nevada del Ruiz is similar to Kilauea.  It has been active and making noise since 1985 when a small eruption caused massive mud slides that devastated an entire town, killing most of the population there.  It doesn’t have the consistent lava flow that Kilauea has, but it does send up regular plumes of ash and has been doing so with frequency for the last two years, now it is increasing as is the number of earthquakes centered around it.  Signs that an eruption is imminent.

For the record, volcanoes are notoriously unreliable.  Just because it appears that Nevada del Ruiz is in the mood to have a massive eruption and every thing we use to measure and predict such things says it is ready to blow, doesn’t mean it will.  It could just quietly go back to rumbling in a few months.  Or it could suddenly decide to dump millions of tons of ash into the sky while lava and mud scream down the mountain eliminating everything in it’s path.

However, the power of a volcanic eruption is another blog post, this one is about volcanoes and climate because nothing on Earth affects weather quite like a volcano. Climate change after an eruption of a super volcano is fast.  We can feel the effects almost immediately.  But little volcanic eruptions also affect weather.

When you get multiple volcanic eruptions close together in both time and location like we have this year, it takes a few months for our weather to be changed by them, but it does change them.  This summer was predicted to be hotter than normal with little rain by the Farmer’s Almanac.  And that is exactly how it started, above average temperatures for most of the US, no real spring, and no real rain, even in Missouri.

However, the Almanac can’t predict volcanic eruptions and the effect they will have on our weather.  There are dozens of volcanoes world wide that do things similar to Kilauea and Nevada del Ruiz, constantly releasing pressure in the form of consistent lava flows or in the form of ash being sent into the sky.

Those smaller, none explosive volcanic actions are usually just a blip.  They are just there.  They only start to matter when we have a large number of volcanic eruptions, like we have had this year.  Kilauea’s explosive eruptions released several million tons of volcanic ash into the sky.  Del Fuego had an even larger eruption.

Volcanologists and climatologists are beginning to talk about a shift in our weather pattern for this year, probably around the end of July or first part of August due to Kilauea and del Fuego erupting.  A cooling off is likely along with more rain than predicted.  It happens every time we have massive volcanic eruptions.  The ash particles get trapped in the atmosphere causing less sun to reach the surface of the Earth, even if we don’t notice it, and the atmosphere tries to remove them by creating rain, it’s technically acid rain, but it’s still rain.  Most of the US was already dealing with a 10-year climate cycle of drought and extreme temperatures.  It began last year… It may not be 10 years long though if Nevada del Ruiz or another large volcano has an explosive eruption…

Volcanoes are the only known force on Earth that can cause extreme climate effects.  Historical eruptions have created cool summers, bitterly cold winters, and short growing seasons for crops and have lead to economic panics, droughts, flooding, and nuclear winters.  Usually a large eruption is required for humans to see significant climate changes due to volcanic eruptions, but accumulation goes into effect when multiple small eruptions take place like they did in May with Kilauea having a rare explosive eruption immediately followed by the explosive eruption of del Fuego in Guatemala.  Adding a third, larger volcanic eruption like Nevada del Ruiz is capable of producing would definitely impact the weather world wide especially going into winter.

I got to thinking about this because over the next seven days, my area which is experiencing a drought and record highs for June is supposed to cool down and get an abundance of rain.  While it is unlikely this short burst of relief is related to the volcanic activity experienced so far this year, if the volcanologists are correct, then this could be the trend for July and August, which would lead to damaging flooding and poor crop growth in my area.  Just something to think about.

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