Volcano Emissions Affect Global Warming
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder discovered that emissions from volcanoes around the globe can mask or reduce the effects of global warming.
The study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that small amounts of sulfur dioxide emissions from Earth's surface eventually rise 12 to 20 miles into the stratospheric aerosol layer of the atmosphere, where chemical reactions create sulfuric acid and water particles that reflect sunlight back to space, thus causing the planet to cool.
"This new study indicates it is emissions from small to moderate volcanoes that have been slowing the warming of the planet," said Ryan Neely, who led the research as part of his CU-Boulder doctoral thesis.
The study suggests that increases in stratospheric aerosols since 2000 have counterbalanced as much as 25 percent of the warming scientists blame on human greenhouse gas emissions. However, the scientists said 10-year climate data sets like the one gathered for the new study are not long enough to determine climate change trends.
"The biggest implication here is that scientists need to pay more attention to small and moderate volcanic eruptions when trying to understand changes in Earth's climate," said Toon of CU-Boulder's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. "But overall, these eruptions are not going to counter the greenhouse effect. Emissions of volcanic gases go up and down, helping to cool or heat the planet, while greenhouse gas emissions from human activity just continue to go up."