Kasatochi Volcano SO2 update: aerosols may have cooling effect on the NH this year

In August, I reported that the Kasitochi volcano in the Aleutian Island erupted over a million tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean, here is a satellite sounder derived image of the cloud that was released:

That was then. Since then, the SO2 has had about a month to disperse around the Northern Hemisphere. Now we can watch it occur, see the movie (animated GIF) below. It may take awhile to fully load on slow connections:

The movie above, the first ever I’ve seen, was created by the University of Bremen in Germany. It shows how a plume of SO2 from the eruption was  swirled, twirled and spread via weather systems in the NH during August 2008.

There have been a number of colorfully spectacular sunsets and sunrises since the eruption.

The sky show has subsided as the SO2 clouds have dissipated. But now the really interesting effect begins. With the dispersal happening, we’ll see just how much this million plus tons of SO2 will affect the earth’s albedo, and thus incoming solar radiation. The eruption of Pinatubo had a measurable effect on global temperatures, and while the Kasitochi volcano’s ejecta is smaller by comparison, it will be interesting to see if it enhances the global cooling trend we’ve recently seen.

Time will tell.

h/t Spaceweather.com

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36 thoughts on “Kasatochi Volcano SO2 update: aerosols may have cooling effect on the NH this year

  1. May I point out that China is burning 3 bn tons of coal in 2008, with a sulfur content of approx. 1 % and no sulfur dioxide filtering. India burns another 0.6 bn tons.
    Altogether this brings approx. 70 million tons of sulfur dioxde into the atmosphere. Ten years ago, the two countries have been consuming 1/3 of the present amount of coal.
    You worry about the one-time effect of 1 million tons of sulfur dioxide. How much cooling would then come from an extra 50 million tons of sulfur dioxide per year, with a tendency of further increase?

  2. Werner,
    I thought Volcanoes were different because the So2 goes much higher into the atmosphere.
    I also thought coal plants cause global warming because of the Co2.
    Maybe coal is the perfect material to burn. It causes cooling and warming. They should cancel each other out … right?

  3. We could seriously have done without this.
    A parachute for lemmings is unnecessary.
    This sets back the hope of waking Joe Average from the drones’ hypnotism act.
    The “crowd” will grab this with both teeth.

  4. Werner, doesn’t the Bremen movie above show China and at least part of India?
    Do you think the SO2 data was filtered out of the movie for those countries?

  5. Lucy Skywalker (12:13:59) :
    Is there any link between solar behaviour and incidence of vulcanism?
    Good question. I think Ulric started out by noticing the correlations between volcanoes and planetary activity. Funnily enough he stopped a thread (on the top volcano site on the net) in it’s tracks with his predictions before he noticed that weather/climate “suffers” from the same …ahem… cyclomania and focussed his beady eye on that larger, more challenging, target.
    So glad to see you came over from the dark side Lucy. Also glad to report that because of natural cooling following natural warming, as day follows night, you are in no danger of being flooded on the Somerset levels.

  6. Webber,
    Wouldn’t how the SOx is emitted alter how it is distributed in the atmosphere? Wouldn’t burning coal and other sulfurous fuel tend to keep the pollutants in the troposphere, where it would be removed by rain over a shorter period of time than a volcanic eruption. As a volcano (assuming a big enough eruption) would launch SOx past the troposphere into the upper atmosphere regions.

  7. Reply to Bruce:
    These are Mauna Loa data concerning El Chicon and Pinatubo eruptions:
    http://www.mlo.noaa.gov/programs/esrl/solar/img/img_solar_transmission.gif
    The El Chicon eruption brought an enormous amount of SO2 into the atmosphere, but not much else. I do not know how many million tons, but there were reports that airplanes flying nearby had enormous corrosion problems.
    The impact on the climate of El Chicon seemed to have been much less than the Pinatubo eruption.
    To Glenn:
    I guess, when you create such a movie, you have a background without the eruption, then you add the eruption and you see it thin out.
    When you look at present day photographs from China, you always see haze. Visibiilty is reduced to 1 km, even at ‘sunshine’. It reminds me of Dresden 20 years ago, where they burned lignite. Contrast was then Leningrad, which was without any haze, as they burned natural gas.
    When the global cooling continues, and the La Nina excuse is worn out, the AGW people may point out as an excuse for the failure of the climate models that the increase of CO2 production is compensated or overcompensated by the acidic aerosols produced by ‘dirty burning’ in China, India and other places, including the slash-and-burn of the rain forests.

  8. Mt Pinatubo ejected 20 million tons of SO2 and cooled down the Earth by 0.6 deg C or so. Assuming a proportionality law, 1 million ton will cool down by 0.03 deg C only, so it might be sane to forget about the effect even if some of us would want it. 😉

  9. It would be nice to see something help push Arctic temperature anomalies back closer to global temperature anomalies. Refer to Polar and Global temperature anomalies.
    http://i38.tinypic.com/15n0obl.jpg
    It seems, though, that polar amplification began its decline back in 2005, illustrated by the next graph, which is Arctic temperature anomaly minus global temperature anomaly. Is it a long term trend? If global temperatures continue to decline, Arctic temperatures should drop at a faster rate.
    http://i37.tinypic.com/1zn4wex.jpg
    BUT, explosive equatorial volcanic eruptions are known to produce Northern Hemisphere winter warming. That discussion starts in the second paragraph on page 5 of the following.
    http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/EGECVolcanicEruptions.pdf
    What effect will an explosive high-latitude volcano have? I haven’t found a reference yet.

  10. Werner Weber:
    In the interest of accuracy and slightly OT – not all of China always enveloped in industrial haze – I have some lovely lansdscape views of South China mountains in Jan ’08 – when the weather was fine and the sky blue. Even in industrial areas, there may pollution but the visibility will be more than 1 km. (I know, I’ve walked the roads.) Some days are better than others, even as they are in Auckland and elsewhere.

  11. There was a bifurcation around Greenland, over Canada, one arm continuing East, the other going around the planet in the opposite direction, around the Arctic. Weird.

  12. Lucy, I am reading his paper now. It is BIG. Not for the science that we already know, but for the calling out of the fraudsters. Mann et al, and the IPCC, must issue a libel suite against Monkton, or be publicly acceopted as frauds. There is no two ways about it. He states:
    The graph’s fabricators inserted their own “estimates”
    The “hockey stick”, therefore, was a deliberate attempt to falsify the true climate record.
    The fabricators..
    Can they fob the “libel” off as being the rantings of a madman? That is their only other option. However, Monkton is very definately NOT a madman.
    Lord Lang, age 67, was a member of the British Parliament from 1979 to 1997. He served in the cabinet as president of the Board of Trade and secretary of state for trade and industry from 1995 to 1997 and as secretary of state for Scotland from 1990 to 1995.

  13. Luboš Motl, that depends on the circulation patterns and how SO2 is dispersed in the atmosphere. Pinatubo is not at the top of the world.

  14. OT
    Obama is talking about creating a Clean Energy Corps. I guess it’s like the Peace Corps, except instead of drilling water wells in third world countries, they’ll show up at our homes and businesses to “help” us to clean up our terrible CO2 emissions. Those idealistic college kids will straighten us out.

  15. I suspect the bifurcation at the Rockies is due to the cloud spreading out when encountering the barrier of the Rockies, then parts being picked up by different weather patterns. The Rocky Mountain barrier is suspected of causing Britain’s mild weather, due to diverting Pacific air toward the south and warmer patterns tending to flow northeast from the Gulf of Mexico. To see what picked up the SO2 cloud, overlay the corresponding day’s weather front maps and compare the pressure patterns. Or overlay the day’s weather satellite images and compare the cloud patterns with the SO2 flow.

  16. Mike Bryant (18:21:36) :
    OT
    Obama is talking about creating a Clean Energy Corps. I guess it’s like the Peace Corps, except instead of drilling water wells in third world countries, they’ll show up at our homes and businesses to “help” us to clean up our terrible CO2 emissions. Those idealistic college kids will straighten us out.
    Chairman Mao had the same ideas in the sixties. He created the red guard. Sent them out to re educate their elders. After they finished that task, Mao sent them out to Mongolia to get them out of the way.(And try and undo the damage that they had created)

  17. Thanks for the links everyone, it seems that vulcanism correlates to the 21-year solar cycle (and poss longer ones) but not to the 11-year cycle – and that with a prolonged solar minimum, we may expect more volcanic activity. Oil likely to decline at the same time there’s increasing cooling anyway AND possible volcanoes cooling us further. Roll on the energy research programmes! – which reminds me, here is a fascinating possibility – usable U235 and more, mined from Illinois coal wastes…

  18. Barry L. (15:58:42) :
    “Is there any link between solar behaviour and incidence of vulcanism?
    Yes there is!
    http://ads.ari.uni-heidelberg.de/full/2003ESASP.535..393S …”
    Ugh. I sure hope this paper is wrong.
    Dalton Minimum + Tambora = “Year Without a Summer.”
    Nobody knows how many people died as a result (record keeping was still poor).
    There were anecdotal reports of people dying from eating rotted horse flesh.
    In our time, the vast majority of us don’t even have access to fresh horse flesh!

  19. In regards to any correlation between solar activity and volcanism, it sounds quite insane to a casual reader, however…
    If this is true and I haven’t looked at any of the links that might have been provided above, it seems that solar activity might be a proxy. The actual cause might be planetary orbit alignment changes inducing gravitational stressing of the Earth’s crust and/or magma flow acceleration/decelerations. The orbit changes would also influence circulation patterns in the Sun which changes solar activity.
    I did read this as a proposed theory somewhere that had some physics analysis to support it.

  20. Lucy Skywalker (12:45:02) :
    “OT, sorry, but Monckton’s new paper on the HS and the MWP is IMHO well worth a write-up from you. Good thing is, he balances excellent science (MWP) and vital politics (the HS story) very well. A fellow UK citizen I can be proud of.”
    I agree.
    BTW, I sent a comment to US Pres candidate McCain that he should reconsider his cap and trade position and that, recognizing the political risk, he should form an independent scientific commission to study the issue as a due-diligence action, to make sure the investment will be sound. This is probably the only way out for a politician who has committed to the A-CO2-GW action.

  21. The important aspect for short term climate is how much of the SO2 gets converted into Sulfuric Acid. The effeciency of that chemical change is what determines how effective it is at reflecting sunlight.

  22. Barry L.: Thanks for the link.
    Wonder how long it will take for this solar effect to be noticed and ‘quashed’ by Icarus? No doubt, the solar poloidal field will be found to vary at 1 AU by some insignificant amount and the earth effect therefore negligible.
    As Kuhn pointed out, paradigms are notoriously resistant to contradiction and change in the face of contravening evidence.

  23. Hey, people often suggest that Pinatubo proves positive feedback of temp. with water vapor. That’s seriously flawed. There are atleast two important feedbacks that make the decrease in humidity fallowing. 1) Aerosols and clouds would reduce light incident on water. That would likely be the main driver of humidity reductions following volcanoes. 2) Aerosols make clould droplets smaller and increase the rate at which they evaporate and condense, radiating heat. 3) They decrease the rate of percipitation.

  24. CRF and magnetic fields could also affect the amount and type of volcanic activity. It’s not implausible that CRF may increase amount of potential cloud nucleation particles as they do in the lower atmosphere over water. Ionization of particles could cause pressure imbalances as could shifts in magnetic fields.

  25. What would happen if airliners began using high sulfur fuel? Would this help reduce global warming? If so, it might be a stop gap measure to get us past the warming crisis.

  26. Regarding Monckton’s paper, “Hockey Stick? What Hockey Stick?” (referenced by Lucy Skywalker)–I’m impressed. I did notice a typo, which hopefully someone here will know how to forward to him:
    P. 11, penultimate paragraph, first line:
    Change “hen” to “when”

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