No one is surprised by the fact that volcanic activity has the potential to strongly affect the climate.
In 1991, the volcano Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, laying waste to the local communities. What’s even more amazing is that the tons of ash and other particles released in the explosion made their way around the world, eventually floating in European skies. The ash partially blocked the sun’s rays from reaching the surface of the Earth. As a result, global temperatures for the next several years were colder by about half a degree. While the damage is usually short term and local, volcanic activity can have a very real impact on global weather patterns.
The surprising new claim, though, is that global weather patterns, like human-caused climate change, can have an impact on volcanic activity.
Earlier this week, German scientists published the results of a study linking global warming and increased volcanic eruptions.
Researchers based at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, alongside Americans from Harvard University, collected data on the major volcanic eruptions that occurred in Pacific Ocean over the past million years.
"Among others pieces of evidence, we have observations of ash layers in the seabed and have reconstructed the history of volcanic eruptions for the past 460,000 years," according to volcanologist Dr. Steffen Kutterolf, lead author of the study, which appeared in Geology.
The data appeared to support the theory that volcanic activity follows cycles.
"There were periods when we found significantly more large eruptions than in others," continued Kutterolf.
Those large eruptions seem to happen most often when the world is in a warming phase.
"In times of global warming, the glaciers are melting on the continents relatively quickly. At the same time the sea level rises. The weight on the continents decreases, while the weight on the oceanic tectonic plates increases. Thus, the stress changes within in the earth to open more routes for ascending magma," said geophysicist Dr. Marion Jegen, another participant in the study.
The study actually had good news if you live near a volcano
"If you follow the natural climate cycles, we are currently at the end of a really warm phase,” claims Kutterolf. “Therefore, things are volcanically quieter now.”
But, he added, “The impact from man-made warming is still unclear based on our current understanding.”
The study claims that when the planet is warm, there are more volcanic eruptions. We know we are making the world warmer through our actions. One has to imagine a tipping point will be reached if nothing is changed.