Claim: NASA simulation indicates ancient flood volcanoes could have altered climate

This is a plume of ash from the Sarychev volcano in the Kuril islands, northeast of Japan. The picture was taken from the International Space Station during the early stage of the volcano's eruption on June 12, 2009. Credits: NASA
This is a plume of ash from the Sarychev volcano in the Kuril islands, northeast of Japan. The picture was taken from the International Space Station during the early stage of the volcano’s eruption on June 12, 2009. Credits: NASA

From NASA/GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER and the “maybe they should have checked with Willis first” department comes this modeling claim:

In June, 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines exploded, blasting millions of tons of ash and gas over 20 miles high – deep into the stratosphere, a stable layer of our atmosphere above most of the clouds and weather. Certain gases in the massive plume from this volcano acted like a sunshield by scattering some of the sun’s light, preventing it from reaching the surface and causing average surface temperatures to drop worldwide by an estimated 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit).

“We’ve been trying to better understand how volcanoes alter the climate for about 30 years now,” said Lori Glaze of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980 (Washington state) and the El Chichon eruption in 1982 (Mexico) were both similar-sized eruptions. There wasn’t much of a climate effect after Mount Saint Helens, but after El Chichon, there was a big global cooling event for a couple years.”

“We didn’t understand why, so people started looking into that and it turned out that the El Chichon eruption included much more sulfur than Mount Saint Helens,” said Glaze.

The eruptions of El Chichon and Pinatubo were powerful enough to propel their gases into the stratosphere, which gave them the potential to alter short-term climate. “Since the stratosphere is stable, if gas in volcanic plumes gets into the stratosphere, it stays there for a long time – a couple years,” said Glaze. “Although there are many complications, the bottom line is that when these gases produce aerosols in the stratosphere, they scatter some of the sun’s radiation, which warms the stratosphere and causes a net cooling at the surface. The gas in these volcanic plumes – primarily sulfur dioxide (SO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) – which doesn’t come out in large amounts — reacts to form a layer of sulfuric acid (H2SO4) in the stratosphere. This layer scatters some of the sun’s infrared radiation.”

Another type of volcano called a “flood-basalt eruption” doesn’t explode as dramatically, but dwarfs these examples with much bigger volumes of gas and lava erupted. “With eruptions like Pinatubo, you get one shot of sulfur dioxide and other gases into the stratosphere, but then the volcano is quiet for hundreds or thousands of years,” said Glaze. “With a flood-basalt eruption, you’re repeatedly ejecting these chemicals into the atmosphere over tens, hundreds, or maybe even thousands of years. Each eruption itself may not be the biggest thing you’ve ever seen, but you’re continuously supplying gas to the atmosphere over a long period time.”

There haven’t been any flood-basalt volcanic eruptions in human history, which is probably a good thing. “It’s almost unfathomable how big these lava flows are,” said Glaze. “A large part of the western part of the state of Washington is covered in 1.5 kilometers-thick (thousands of yards) lava from the Columbia River flood-basalt eruptions.” One eruption of the Columbia River basalt formation, the Roza eruption, is the focus of Glaze and her team’s analysis. It happened about 14.7 million years ago and produced about 1,300 cubic kilometers (over 300 cubic miles) of lava over an estimated period of ten to fifteen years.

Although flood-basalt eruptions were enormous, they were not as explosive as eruptions like Pinatubo. The molten rock (magma) in flood-basalt eruptions flowed easily. This allowed gas that was trapped in it to be released easily as well. This magma produces “fire-fountain” eruptions – a fountain of lava rising hundreds of meters (hundreds of yards) into the air. Often these eruptions begin along a crack in the Earth, called a fissure, up to several kilometers (a few miles) long, producing a dramatic glowing curtain of lava. Fire-fountain eruptions are seen on a smaller scale today in places like Hawaii and Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy.

A small fire fountain eruption during the 1989 eruption of Mount Etna, Italy. A plume of fragmented ash and gas rises buoyantly above the red hot lava in the fountain. Credits: Lori Glaze
A small fire fountain eruption during the 1989 eruption of Mount Etna, Italy. A plume of fragmented ash and gas rises buoyantly above the red hot lava in the fountain. Credits: Lori Glaze

The magma that powers Pinatubo-type eruptions is thicker, and flows more slowly. Gas dissolved in this thick magma can’t escape as easily, so when pressure is suddenly released at the beginning of these eruptions, it’s like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne – all the gas rushes out at once, producing an explosive eruption.

Since “fire-fountain” eruptions aren’t as explosive, scientists wonder whether the gases from them are propelled high enough to reach the stratosphere, allowing the very large fire-fountain eruptions that produced the flood basalts to potentially alter the climate. The answer depends not only on how vigorous the eruption is – taller fire fountains produce higher gas plumes – but also on where the stratosphere begins.

The boundary between the unstable lower atmosphere (troposphere) and the stable stratosphere is called the tropopause. Because warmer air expands more and rises higher than cooler air, the tropopause is highest over the equator and gradually becomes lower until it reaches its minimum height over the poles. Thus a fire-fountain plume from a volcano at high latitudes near the polar-regions has a better chance of reaching the stratosphere than one from a volcano near the equator.

The height of the boundary has also changed over time, as the contents of the atmosphere have changed. For example, carbon dioxide gas traps heat from the sun, so when there was more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, temperatures were warmer and the tropopause was higher.

The question of whether large fire-fountain eruptions can change climate was raised by a similar but much smaller-scale fire-fountain eruption in Iceland, according to Glaze. “The Laki eruption in 1783 to 1784 injected sulfur dioxide into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere through repeated eruptions over a period of eight months, affecting climate in the northern hemisphere during 1783 and possibly through 1784,” said Glaze. Ben Franklin, living in France at the time, noticed the haze and severe winter and speculated on whether Icelandic volcanoes could have changed the weather, according to Glaze.

To answer this question, Glaze and her team applied a computer model they developed to calculate how high volcanic plumes rise. “This is the first time a model like this has been used to calculate whether the plume of ash and gas above a large fire-fountain volcano like the Roza eruption could reach the stratosphere at the time and location of the event,” said Glaze.

Her team estimated the tropopause height given the eruption’s latitude (about 45 degrees North) and the contents of the atmosphere at the time of the eruption and found that the eruption could have reached the stratosphere. Glaze is lead author of a paper on this research published August 6 in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

“Assuming five-kilometer-long (3.1 mile-long) active fissure segments, the approximately 180 kilometers (about 112 miles) of known Roza fissure length could have supported about 36 explosive events or phases over a period of maybe ten to fifteen years, each with a duration of three to four days,” said Glaze. “Each segment could inject as much as 62 million metric tons per day of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere while actively fountaining, the equivalent of about three Pinatubo eruptions per day.”

The team verified their model by applying it to the 1986 Izu-Oshima eruption, a well-documented eruption in Japan that produced spectacular fire fountains 1.6 kilometers (almost a mile) high. “This eruption produced observed maximum plume heights of 12 to 16 km (7.4 to 9.9 miles) above sea level,” said Glaze. When the team input fountain height, temperature, fissure width, and other characteristics similar to the Izu-Oshima eruption into their model, it predicted maximum plume heights of 13.1 to 17.4 km (8.1 to 10.8 miles), encompassing most of the observed values.

“Assuming the much larger Roza eruption could sustain fire-fountain heights similar to Izu-Oshima, our model shows that Roza could have sustained buoyant ash and gas plumes that extended into the stratosphere at about 45 degrees north,” said Glaze.

Although the team’s research suggests the Roza eruption had the potential to alter climate, scientists still have to search for evidence of a climate change around the time of the eruption, perhaps an extinction event in the fossil record, or indications of changes in atmospheric chemistry or sea levels, according to Glaze.

“For my personal research, I would like to take these results and look at some of the really large ancient fissure eruptions on Venus and Mars,” said Glaze. “There are other gases in volcanic plumes like water vapor and carbon dioxide. These gases don’t have significant effect on Earth because there is so much in the atmosphere already. However, on Venus and Mars, the effect of water vapor becomes very important because there is so little of it in their atmospheres. Venus is one of my favorite places to study and I want to ask if there was active volcanism on Venus today, what should we be looking for?”

The surface of Venus is hidden under a thick cloud layer, so a volcanic plume might not be visible from space, but there is the possibility that an active volcano could produce noticeable changes in atmospheric chemistry.


The research was funded by NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics program, managed by NASA Headquarters, Washington.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
August 10, 2015 10:58 am

Actually it is EASTERN Washington and Oregon that have the lava, not Western. Western is mostly old sea bed.

Reply to  Paul
August 10, 2015 11:15 am

Central might be more accurate, except that the sense of where eastern starts is skewed in those states. Anything beyond the suburbs is considered east for some of them.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Paul
August 10, 2015 11:25 am

Beat me to it.
In WA and OR, common usage west of the Cascades is to call everything to the east East. But those of us who live here in God’s Country distinguish between Central and Eastern OR & WA. Bend is in the western half of the State of Oregon, for instance.

Reply to  Sturgis Hooper
August 10, 2015 2:00 pm

Although Bend is in the Western half of Oregon and East of the Cascades, it’s also close to the centre of the state, and always referred to as being in Central Oregon by Bendites.

Reply to  Paul
August 10, 2015 12:47 pm

While western Oregon is mostly scraped off seabed from the Cascadia Subduction Zone, if I understand correctly, there are Columbia basalt flow intrusions, such as Tillamook Head and Haystack Rock. I live between the two, and right in front of my place are basalt flows with hexagonal columnar jointing.

Pamela Gray
Reply to  Paul
August 10, 2015 1:20 pm

West of the Pacific Trail, you will find only spots here and there of hard-headed intelligent (IE without the soft addled brain that democratic thought can encourage) folks. East of the Pacific Trail you will find many examples of hard-headed intelligent folks. And the further East you go in Oregon, the more often you can add “stubborn”, “opinionated”, and “self-reliant” to it. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
With regard to EPA and their river “clean up” efforts, basically it boils down to this: Our rivers out here run clean and cold despite agriculture surrounding every bend. And we don’t need no stinkin EPA muckin that up.
A case in point, I often see efforts made to carefully and thoughtfully place felled and de-limbed trees into our river banks to create natural whatevers. To hell with that. I regularly fish in a river that runs through agriculture operations with cows and sheep herds lining the length. Many times I have witnessed nature doing the same thing the EPA pays big bucks to do, fall a tree into the river. I also have witnessed carefully placed riprap along the banks in an effort to “keep the river in its banks to increase water flow for the fish”. Guess where that riprap is now? In the middle of pasture ground. And finally, the EPA along with Indian influence cut off all the irrigation ditches by placing fish screens and head gates at the head of each ditch, again in an effort to keep the water in the river bank. And then they wonder why salmon are not as plentiful even after all their efforts. Why did the salmon stop coming in droves? Could it be that all the small gravel lining the irrigation ditches were no longer available to them? Could it be that by keeping all the various fish species in the main stream increase depredation? Naw. The EPA does no wrong.

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Pamela Gray
August 10, 2015 2:52 pm

And the further East you go in Oregon, the more often you can add “stubborn”, “opinionated”, and “self-reliant” to it. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
The southwest corner (“State of Jefferson” country) holds a relic population showing these phenotypes. However, the gene pool is being swamped by intrusives from California. Wife Nancy says that in Wolf Creek they used to be considered foreigners and insufferable know-it-alls.
: > )

Pat Frank
Reply to  Pamela Gray
August 10, 2015 4:03 pm

Problem is you people aren’t organized, Pamela. Hard-headed individuals lose out to the city folks every time, for that single reason. Historically, it’s been happening consistently ever since the Christians (the world’s first ideologically organized urban group) did it to the pagans.

Reply to  Pamela Gray
August 11, 2015 1:18 am

On April 24 there were nearly 8,000 earthquakes off the Oregon coast. The culprit: an underwater volcano.

Reply to  Paul
August 10, 2015 7:58 pm

Actually, accreted terranes….
…and it is really hard to read the contortions in the researcher’s article. Simply put, the Columbia Plateau Basalt eruptions were huge. To wonder if they did or didn’t have an effect on climate is kind of strange. How could they not. Basaltic magma is effusive. Its gas escapes easily. And eventually, it will be distributed vertically in the atmosphere. D’uh.

Reply to  Mike Bromley the Kurd
August 10, 2015 8:03 pm

….and oh, that would be “natural variation”.

August 10, 2015 11:14 am

‘Could’ – is that in the realm of highly likely or is it simply a favorite ‘scientific’ term.

george e. smith
Reply to  kokoda
August 10, 2015 1:54 pm

Well it’s models all the way down.

Reply to  george e. smith
August 10, 2015 2:13 pm

These people just seem to spend our tax dollars while churning out speculative fiction these days . . .

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  kokoda
August 10, 2015 3:27 pm

“Could” is that most favored of Climate Alarmists words when writing their alramist abstracts and press releases.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 10, 2015 3:37 pm


Assuming five-kilometer-long (3.1 mile-long) active fissure segments, the approximately 180 kilometers (about 112 miles) of known Roza fissure length could have supported about 36 explosive events or phases…”
““Each segment could inject as much as 62 million metric tons per day of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere while actively fountaining, the equivalent of about three Pinatubo eruptions per day.”
Assuming the much larger Roza eruption could sustain fire-fountain heights similar to Izu-Oshima, our model shows that Roza could have sustained buoyant ash and gas plumes that extended into the stratosphere at about 45 degrees north,” said Glaze.

With a couple of untestable assumptions and liberal use of the word could, and Viola!!, one has a good story to keep the funding flowing.

Peter Hessellund Sørensen
August 10, 2015 11:14 am

Bear in mind that the volcanic eruptions in historic times have been small compared to the eruptions in geologic times. The Toba volcano in indonesia 76 thousand years ago as an example created a lake 100 km long and 30 km wide and caused ash layers in India with 7 meters thickness. Concluding that just because miniscule volcanic eruptions like Pinatubo had no effect on climate the same is also true for the realy big volcanic eruptions of geological times is not justified.

Reply to  Peter Hessellund Sørensen
August 10, 2015 11:21 am

Let’s ask the rhinos that were engulfed in Nebraska.

Reply to  Peter Hessellund Sørensen
August 10, 2015 11:29 am

“…the volcanic eruptions in historic times have been small compared to the eruptions in geologic times.”
Presumably, that is because the Earth’s core is gradually cooling down and therefore the long-term trend for volcanic activity (and earthquakes) is downwards. Let’s hope it doesn’t cool down too soon, though, eh?!
At least we can be comforted by Al Gore’s assertion that the temperature of the Earth’s mantle is millions of degrees – that should keep us going for a bit!

Peter Hessellund Sørensen
Reply to  Dreadnought
August 10, 2015 11:34 am

76 thousand years is just a blip on a geological timescale. Cooling of the core is insignificant.

Reply to  Dreadnought
August 10, 2015 2:49 pm

No, it just means that in the last few thousand years or so, we’ve been lucky.

Reply to  Dreadnought
August 10, 2015 8:03 pm


Salvatore Del Prete
Reply to  Peter Hessellund Sørensen
August 10, 2015 12:34 pm

Exactly and by the way Pinatubo did have about a 1 year effect on the climate.

Peter Hessellund Sørensen
Reply to  Salvatore Del Prete
August 10, 2015 1:45 pm

That effect is difficult to see on a graph, the drop in temperature is not much different than other non volcanic blips but that doesent mean volcanic eruptions ten or even hundred times larger than Pinatubo wont have an effect.

August 10, 2015 11:23 am

I read a post on here over the weekend in which someone was asserting that the eruptions of El Chichon and Pinatubo are persistently and incorrectly blamed for short-lived cooling events which were actually caused by ENSO fluctuations, and that their appearance on so many historical temperature charts is just a warmist fig leaf (on the basis that, apart from the ‘step warming’ after the 1997/98 Super El Nino, there has been no statistically significant warming during the satellite record, IIRC).
Maybe they were talking through their hat, I’m not sure – perhaps others know more..? It does seem logical, though, that huge eruptions would have a ‘nuclear winter’ type effect on the climate.

August 10, 2015 12:11 pm

Super volcanoes could change climate for period of decades, e.g. Siberian and Deccan traps must have done, so it would a major Yellowstone blow-up.
The North American tectonic plate mini-oscillations, shown here at Yellowstone caldera location have a common denominator with multi-decadal with the N. Hemisphere’s climate natural variability.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  vukcevic
August 10, 2015 9:15 pm

Key word: could

Paul of Alexandria
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 12, 2015 7:20 am

Scientists seldom say “will”, just as a matter of course. Predictive science is, by its nature, probabilistic; the best we can ever say is that something “should” happen, and then go and see if it actually does.

Physics Major
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 13, 2015 6:27 pm

“will”, “could”, “may”, “should”: where does each rank on a quantitative scale of probability?

Reply to  vukcevic
August 10, 2015 11:03 pm

Hey Vuc and the other followers of SSRC. Here is a closing statement from John Casey of SSRC today.
Dear Friends,
This email is to advise my many friends and supporters that effective August 21, 2015, the Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC) will be closing. The reason: The SSRC has accomplished its mission.
After years of dedication to the singular objective of alerting our fellow citizens of the need to prepare for the coming cold climate, I believe that goal has finally been achieved.
This is neither a shifting of gears nor applying of the brakes. Rather, it is time to retire the old reliable truck for a new more nimble sports car. In place of the SSRC will be a new one man consulting company which I will activate within a month or so after some much needed time off.
In the planned consulting company, I will be free to say more and do more – outside of the boundaries of what a pure climate research organization like the SSRC should or could do. I intend to provide opinions and analysis on matters pertaining to climate variation and other areas of science, the
space program, and politics that will challenge both the right and the left, the media, the government and especially the scientific establishment.
After concluding my initial climate research in early 2007, my message of a coming cold climate was a voice in the wilderness, given at a time when no national leader or media executive, conservative or liberal, or many ‘friends’ wanted to hear it.
Since then, however, much has been achieved by the SSRC. At the top of the list is the establishment of the best public track record for major climate predictions in the USA.
This highly visible public record was verified by at least one PhD journalist, and echoed by many others. It means that by using the Relational Cycle Theory of solar-driven climate change, the SSRC has created a history of accuracy in major climate predictions that exceeds that of NASA, NOAA and of
course, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN-IPCC).
Added to this track record is helping get the subject of a new potentially dangerous cold climate on the table for all to discuss where none were doing so at a national level before 2007. The SSRC has served as an ‘icebreaker’ for other researchers and leaders to step up and speak about the
politically unspeakable – that global warming has ended and that a new cold climate has begun.
Meeting the SSRC mission was given a significant boost in the past year thanks to Newsmax Media, Inc., when it first began to publish my ‘global cooling’ book, “Dark Winter” in September 2014. The book was an updated, reorganized version of my first book from 2011 titled, “Cold Sun.”
Newsmax followed up a few months later with a one hour documentary on “Dark Winter.” This TV program has now been viewed by millions of Americans.
Along the way, independent videographers, news people, and numerous blog sites have posted my Op-Eds or videos or radio interviews from some of the hundreds of presentations or interviews I have given. In so doing, the SSRC message has reached countless people around the world via the web. By 2009,
the SSRC had already become the leading online source for information on the new cold epoch.
The capstone measurement of the attainment of the SSRC mission came in the first week in this month when “Dark Winter” reached the status of ‘number 1’ best seller in the ‘climate change’ category at Even before that week, it had already been in and out of the number 1 spot
in the categories of Public Policy, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Earth Sciences, and Weather. Hopefully it will stay near the top during the coming year as the book’s message is passed onto others. In any case, the people have made it clear – they want to hear the truth about the climate. The SSRC
has succeeded in bringing it to them.
Over the years, the SSRC has regularly spread the word that the Sun, not mankind, was the dominant force behind climate change. We have provided all the evidence of such through numerous press releases, research papers both in-house and from others, letters to government leaders, or especially
through the SSRC’s Global Climate Status Report (GCSR). Helping meet this communication objective required a team of brave scientists called in on a periodic basis. The list of scientists and organizations at my side during the past years is lengthy. They are found on the covers of “Cold Sun,”
“Dark Winter,” and in the “Opinions” pages for the SSRC and the GCSR at the SSRC web site at: (
Clearly, among the many who worked with me at the SSRC, there was one who did so on a relatively constant basis – Dr. Ole Humlum. It has been my great honor during this time to have had the unhesitating assistance of Dr. Humlum, as the courageous Co-Editor of the GCSR. He is a Professor of Physical
Geology, a geomorphologist and and a glaciologist at the University of Oslo, Norway, as well as a great human being. The GCSR would not have been published without him.
Another feat of the SSRC was insuring that those with science degrees have been provided an outlet for stating that they believe a new cold climate has begun. This was done though the Global Cooling Awareness Project (GCAP) at the SSRC. I will try to keep this list alive in the new consulting
company, though I suspect the coming cold will obviate its need in the near future.
The SSRC has also led the way in conducting geophysical research related to solar hibernations. This has been aided by the International Earthquake and Volcano Research Center (IEVPC), the ongoing sister company of the SSRC. This geophysics company has been co-managed with Dr. Dong Choi, its
honorable and uniquely talented Director of Research. The SSRC has been the US leader for advising our government and our people that concurrent with the new cold climate, we are about to see our worst earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in over 200 years. For example, an increased geophysical threat
alert was sent to the US government by the SSRC in conjunction with the IEVPC on June 5, 2015, for the entire US West Coast, South Carolina, and in particular for the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ).
Most importantly, the SSRC could not have accomplished its mission without the active participation of the many thousands of good people who joined with me in the quest to tell the truth about the climate. This was especially so during the early difficult years when frequent attempts were made to
‘shoot the messenger,’ by conservatives, progressives, members of the media, and a hostile scientific establishment.
Nonetheless, the SSRC has finally accomplished its mission. The next phase of my efforts to speak the truth is just beginning.
You all have my eternal thanks for your past support and advice.
Best Regards,
John L. Casey
President, Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC)

Salvatore Del Prete
Reply to  vukcevic
August 11, 2015 9:00 am


Salvatore Del Prete
August 10, 2015 12:13 pm

The news is this paper has it correct not Willis or the NASA.
Also Joe D’ Aleo has it correct.
Look at table 3 of this report. I think they have it about right.

Reply to  Salvatore Del Prete
August 11, 2015 1:46 am

In your link is said:
On a much longer timescale, volcanic effects played a large role in interdecadal climate change of the Little Ice Age.
As Willis showed: the LIA was NOT caused by volcanic eruptions. Besides huge continuous events like the above story, the effect of even strong volcanic explosions like the Pinatubo (100 times all other volcanic events of the past century together) only last a few years, without much imprint on temperature…

Salvatore Del Prete
August 10, 2015 12:15 pm

If the volcanic eruption or eruptions are big enough they are for sure going to effect the climate as ALL of the past data so clearly shows.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Salvatore Del Prete
August 11, 2015 5:50 am

“for sure…ALL of the past data so clearly shows”
Show it.

August 10, 2015 12:16 pm

I had long ago noticed that the Chicxulub impact was approximately contemporaneous and antipodal to the formation of the Deccan Traps, which some had advanced as a more likely cause of the K-T extinction than the impact itself.
Perhaps the combined effects may have acted synergistically to enhance the result.

Reply to  tadchem
August 10, 2015 12:21 pm

Major Meteor impacts and flood lava eruptions were the one-two punch that killed off the dinosaurs. Shock waves from the Chicxsulub impact travelled around the mantle and set off the Deccan Traps volcanic eruption on the halfway around the earth, in India. Together these events were enough to trigger the K-T extinction.

Reply to  pochas
August 12, 2015 11:12 am

Nope. Part of the Deccan traps are older than Chicxulub. There are dinosaur fossils in the “intertrappan beds” that were deposited during pauses between eruptive phases

Bill Illis
Reply to  tadchem
August 10, 2015 1:32 pm

In 65 million years, bothe the Chicxulub impact site and the Deccan Traps volcanic site has moved. They were not antipodal 65 million years ago.

Reply to  Bill Illis
August 10, 2015 2:38 pm

I’d say it was more nearly antipodal then (south of the equator) then it is now.

Reply to  Bill Illis
August 10, 2015 7:55 pm

I raised this point a while back. Glad to see others catching on.
Do you think it is a coincidence that these two events occurred around the same time and about, if not exactly, on the opposite point on the globe?
What happens to a shock wave from a six mile wide rock travelling 36,000 MPH hitting the Earth?
Anyone who dismisses this out of hand is not using their head.

Reply to  Bill Illis
August 10, 2015 8:03 pm

The impact delivered an amount of energy some 400 times greater than the largest volcanic eruption known.
It is thought to have increased volcanic activity and earthquakes all over the world for years. To think that there may have been a focusing of the shock wave at some point at the opposite side of the Earth (there is no reason to assume to must have been precisely antipodal) is evident from even a cursory look at how seismic waves travel through the interior of the Earth.

Reply to  Bill Illis
August 10, 2015 8:06 pm

Pochas, you are right…it was even closer to antipodal back then. The India plate was in the center of the Indian Ocean at that time.
I am working to create a set of globes with the continents in the positions they may have occupied at various times in the past.
To try to use flat maps to study something like this inhibits the ability to visualize the relative positions.

August 10, 2015 12:29 pm

Here we go again — playing the same ‘ole volcano-card.

Bennett In Vermont
August 10, 2015 12:30 pm

Yes, please treat me like an idiot and translate all measurements from kilometers into miles or yards or stacked turtles, because I am obviously incapable of doing it on my own, yet I can read this article just fine.
Pardon me if I take umbrage.

Reply to  Bennett In Vermont
August 10, 2015 12:49 pm

Does that translate to you feel insulted?

Reply to  Bennett In Vermont
August 10, 2015 12:59 pm

I liked this one:
“up to several kilometers (a few miles) long” Wow, thanks for clarifying that!

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
August 10, 2015 8:01 pm


Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
August 10, 2015 11:05 pm


August 10, 2015 12:58 pm

If a cooler stratosphere means surface warming and warmer stratosphere mean surface cooling, then the data indicates that the stratosphere cooled by several degrees C. because of the effects of El-Chichon and Pinatubo, therefore SO2 laden volcanoes appear to have a Net warming effect.comment image&action=click

August 10, 2015 1:59 pm

What an amazing comment:

There are other gases in volcanic plumes like water vapor and carbon dioxide. These gases don’t have significant effect on Earth because there is so much in the atmosphere already.

The general “best guess” is that volcanoes produce as much CO2 as all human activity (in round numbers). Here is a clear statement that it does not matter. Perhaps there is still a difference of opinion between geologists and the ClimateScience! types.

Reply to  TonyL
August 11, 2015 8:14 am

The one thing they overlook is that the stratosphere does not have significant amounts of those gasses present, so any injection of those gases into the stratosphere can have significant long term effects on climate, because every photon of solar energy must go through the stratosphere before it gets to the troposphere. It would appear that El-Chichon and Pinatubo have caused a long term warming effect by altering the chemical composition of the stratosphere.

August 10, 2015 2:03 pm

If there is another lava flood event there is going to be a world-class grass/forest fire that accompanies it, and the local wind storms from that will likely propel far more than sulfur particles aloft. We may see pigs fly. I live in the area of discussion in Washington’s Sonora desert and if you know where to look you can see some of the fossil remains of fissures that fed the great lava floods. The colors are spectacular.
I would rather we spent money studying cancer than worrying about lava floods – not going to happen within any important time frame and when it does there’s nothing can be done except to move everyone to Mexico. Earth will likely be in an ice age then so everyone may already have moved there.
My own theory about lava flooding is it is the result of irregular features on the inner core at the center of the earth coming into proximity with irregular features beneath the mantle creating high pressure zones in the viscous layer between. The same stuff that drives plate tectonics. The core and the surface rotate at different relative velocities and directions. The iron core is not a glowing hot smooth and featureless billiard ball as often depicted in science books.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  dp
August 10, 2015 6:26 pm

Washington’s Sonora desert
Google that!

Reply to  dp
August 10, 2015 9:20 pm

Very strange comment about the “Sonora Desert”.
The Sonoran Desert is far from Washington. It occupies an area including Southwest Arizona, Southeast California, and parts of Mexico due south of there.
Eastern Washington includes the Channeled Scablands, and some other areas considered
“near deserts”, but no actual named deserts, as far as I have ever heard of. Semi-desert I suppose one might say, it is pretty dry and desertish during summer,

Reply to  Menicholas
August 10, 2015 10:04 pm

The colloquial name Sonora seems to confuse some of you. Substitute Sonoran Desert and re-engage your brain. And if you ever wish to visit the northern most extent of the Sonoran Desert we’d be happy to have you visit Oroville, Washington where the northern most mile of the desert that begins in Mexico bumps into Canada where it is known as Canada’s banana belt and is home to the warmest lake in Canada.

Reply to  Menicholas
August 12, 2015 10:20 pm

Only confused because we never heard of it and I cannot find a single reference to it anywhere. Perhaps you could post one…even if it is just the weekend magazine page from a local newspaper.

Reply to  dp
August 12, 2015 10:50 pm

Join the debate.
Let us know when you resolve it.
Regardless of what you think of the claim, the fissures mentioned in my earlier post are a remarkable thing to visit.

August 10, 2015 2:33 pm

Quoting the article: “The height of the boundary has also changed over time, as the contents of the atmosphere have changed. For example, carbon dioxide gas traps heat from the sun, so when there was more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, temperatures were warmer and the tropopause was higher.”
There is more carbon dioxide in our present atmosphere than in the past, yet the temperatures are not warmer. Other times in the Earth’s past, the carbon dioxide levels have been higher than today, but the temperatures were lower.
I think the author assumes too much.

August 10, 2015 2:52 pm

The gasses exhaled by sub-aerial volcanoes have been very poorly and very crudely measured. Mention is often made of carbon dioxide but rarely of water vapor, carbon monoxide, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid and methane, let alone others that have never been analyzed. Then there are the submarine brethren, like red-headed step-children. What gas volumes are we talking about? There are a lot of sub-aerial volcanoes and many, many more underwater that have never been counted, let alone measured and studied.
It’s very unprofessional to speculate on climate/weather effects attributable to explosive volcanic activity (and completely ignoring persistent, long-term venting) when there is such a chronic paucity of even basic data.

Louis Hunt
August 10, 2015 2:53 pm

I was wondering what the title meant when it referred to “ancient flood volcanoes.” Were these volcanoes caused by ancient floods? No, apparently it was shorthand for “flood-basalt eruption” volcanoes.

old construction worker
August 10, 2015 3:18 pm

Thanks for the link, Salvatore De Prete.. Just As I thought, The volcano’s cloud becomes warmer because it absorbs and reflects SWIR and at the same time It reflects more LWIR back toward earth than “normal”. It is curious that increase back radiation isn’t strong enough to offset the surface cooling or even increase surface temperature. So much for the mighty CO2. Another nail in the ‘Co2 drives the climate” theory.

August 10, 2015 3:43 pm

Isn’t it interesting how sulfuric acid which will eventually be precipitated out of the atmosphere must be so much more benign than than acetic acid in the oceans. At least the “oceans are going acidic” crowd never seems to address what must have been some seriously acidic environments in the past.

Reply to  fossilsage
August 10, 2015 8:08 pm

And for all the hoopla about acid rain acidifying New England lakes, the great coal-fired sulfur plumes floating over the western Pacific are irrelevant.

Reply to  verdeviewer
August 11, 2015 11:47 am

what about the deep sea vents that have created an entire Kingdom of animals that are not dependent on photosynthesis for biochemical energy. I read somewhere that that Kingdom outweighs as biomass the entire Animal Kingdom which is so dependent. H2S is central to their metabolism.

August 10, 2015 3:50 pm

I also like how model researchers talk about they ran the model accounting for this or that variable for “the first time” like they were Peary on the way to the North Pole or Powell floating down the Colorado River or “one small step for mankind”… .you get the idea

Jim G1
August 10, 2015 4:06 pm

Yellowstone has had many eruptions but most have not been of the “super volcano” variety. If the big one goes off, proceed to the center of the building, sit on the floor, put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye. Major climate impact on top of the immediate effects.

August 10, 2015 6:10 pm

The examples quoted are evidence of fractionation of the melt mostly in the trachyte – rhyolite end which produce the most explosive volcanoes such as Mt Pinatubo, Mt St Helens etc. As in most systems the amount of contained sulphur does occur and does matter. The largest eruption since 0 AD in North Korea produced the largest amount of tephra in about 840AD but seems to have caused the least amount of climate change. My guess is that it is a low sulphur regime.
The two systems that are type locations for all types of exhalative volcanics (i.e from trachyte to basalt) present are the Herculean complex at Vesuvius, Italy and the Cretaceous systems in the Whitsundays, Qld Australia. From these two examples it is possible to understand where each of the voncanic systems belong. The observations made in some of the comments confirm this model and demonstrate a good understanding of the differences caused by the differing classes of exhalative volcanics. It is possible that these systems have their corollaries in the differing black shales since the mid Proterozoic at Witswatersrand. Here the volcanic activity has caused these gnerally radioactive shales to form at various geologic times since Witswatersrand.
It may be that these events are responsible for the various extinctions thoughout geologic time. Here toxic gases (and sulphir is a common additive) would have spread globally and into the various oceans and seas to cause an environment that was hostile to life. Certainly the mid Devonian ‘hot’ shales in the Palaeozoic Basins of North America point to this phenomona and the mid Odovician Shales of southern Australia.

John Gorter
Reply to  IRFM
August 10, 2015 9:47 pm

Can you please expand on what you mean by ‘the mid Ordovician Shales of southern Australia’?

Reply to  John Gorter
August 13, 2015 4:05 am

My view is that these shales with high levels of organic material are derived from exhalative volcanic sources equivalent to Mt St Helens and other recent examples. This is a maverick view by the way.

August 10, 2015 8:01 pm

“We didn’t understand why” the Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980 didn’t cool the planet as much as the El Chichon eruption in 1982.
You didn’t notice that St. Helens shot its wad sideways?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  verdeviewer
August 10, 2015 9:16 pm

it was low on sulphur aerosols, that helps too.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  verdeviewer
August 10, 2015 9:42 pm

I am one of the fortunate few who heard Mt St Helens blow its top. Sure glad I was not living downwind of that sucker. I was in North Vancouver at the time, in a house facing south. The noise rattled the house slightly. We assumed it was dynamiting down at the harbour, before nine on a Sunday morning!

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
August 10, 2015 11:22 pm

Me, too! I had visions of a propane train car vaporizing. The echo went on for what seemed like minutes. Visited Hood River a few days later. Cars covered with what I though was mud from an off-road expedition until I saw my own car. Raining mud, Still enough ash in the air to cause me lung discomfort.

James Goodson
August 10, 2015 9:46 pm

Something I rarely see mentioned are the mid oceanic ridges. They are erupting constantly throughout geologic history and presently put out enormous amounts of gasses. Under the high pressure and cold temperatures many of these gasses are extremely soluble and would not be put into the atmosphere until circulated to the surface and warmed. I don’t see anyone discussing these.

Reply to  James Goodson
August 10, 2015 10:29 pm

Because Exxon didnt do it

Reply to  James Goodson
August 11, 2015 2:01 am

The buffer capacity of the deep ocean waters is more than enough to allow a lot of uptake without much change in composition. Further, chalk deposits can be dissolved again if the pH gets lower… SO2 will not be emitted at the surface out of solution. CO2 will, as the levels are much higher, but that is more enhanced in the deep by the biological pump (drop out of the surface layer and bacterial decay in the depth) than by volcanoes…

Salvatore Del Prete
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
August 11, 2015 9:03 am

Your conclusions about CO2 are at best speculation.
As far as volcanos ,they have a bigger effect on the climate then CO2 which has zero effects.

Mike Henderson
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
August 16, 2015 2:57 pm
August 10, 2015 10:29 pm

So, Ben Franklin was right?

Reply to  jeanparisot
August 10, 2015 11:02 pm

We are all born ignorant,
but one must work hard to remain stupid.
Benjamin Franklin
(Well my work is done.)

August 11, 2015 1:20 am

The volcano – known as the ‘Gateway to Hell’ in medieval Europe – erupted regularly every ten years in the second half of the 20th century (1970, 1980-81, 1991, 2000). By this timetable, a Hekla eruption is long overdue.

August 11, 2015 1:53 am

Volcanoes cooling of the surface by reducing the access of solar radiation. In particular, this may affect the cooling of the oceans. The temperature of the oceans is the most important, because the mainland quickly radiates to the atmosphere.

August 11, 2015 5:51 am

Melting glaciers could result in a higher number of volcanic eruptions in Iceland, according to new research.
The research, which looked at the glacial melting occurring in the North Atlantic island as a result of climate change, showed that the country’s glaciers are losing around 11 billion tonnes of ice each year. As a result, not only do global sea levels rise, but Iceland itself is elevated.
The study – Climate driven vertical acceleration of Icelandic crust measured by CGPS geodesy – was carried out by researchers from the University of Iceland and the University of Arizona. The group studied data from 62 GPS sensors around Iceland to work out how the earth responded to climate change-driven glacial melting; they found that the country is actually rising by as much as 35 millimetres a year.
Researcher Kathleen Compton explained that as the glaciers melts, the pressure on the rocks beneath lessened, and that rocks at a high temperature could remain solid if the pressure was high enough. She further explained that as the pressure was reduced, the melting temperature was effectively lowered.
According to Compton, this means that Iceland could expect more volcanic eruptions like the Eyjafjallajokull one in 2010.
I gave Iceland credit due by the way they dealt with bank fraud and jailing bankers. However, they do not seem to realize that the banks, hedge-funds and universities are screwing them again.

Salvatore Del Prete
August 11, 2015 8:58 am

The explanation below is for the Little Ice Age and I think it can be applied to the YD, despite the fact Milankovitch Cycles were not that favorable at that time , but the Ice Dynamic for sure was and that changed the whole dynamic of the playing field and is the factor which made abrupt climatic changes to happen so frequently 20000 to 10000 years ago.
The YD was just one of many abrupt climatic changes during that time period.
This theory combined with my input for how the Little Ice Age may have started can also be applied to the YD, with the big difference being the all important Ice Dynamic at the time of the YD ,which made the climate more vulnerable to change with much less forcing.
This article is good but it needs to emphasize the prolonged minimum solar /volcanic climate connection( which it does not mention ), and other prolonged minimum solar climate connections such as an increase in galactic cosmic rays more clouds, a more meridional atmospheric circulation due to ozone distribution/concentration changes (which it does not do ) which all lead to cooler temperatures and more extremes .
In addition they do not factor the relative strength of the earth’s magnetic field.
When this is added to the context of this article I think one has a comprehensive explanation as to how the start of the Little Ice Age following the Medieval Warm Period may have taken place and how like then (around 1275 AD) is similar to today with perhaps a similar result taken place going forward from this point in time.

I want to add the Wolf Solar Minimum went from 1280-1350 AD ,followed by the Sporer Minimum from 1450-1550 AD.
This Wolf Minimum corresponding to the onset of the Little Ice Age.
John Casey the head of the Space and Science Center, has shown through the data a prolonged minimum solar event/major volcanic eruption correlation.
Today, I say again is very similar to 1275 AD. If prolonged minimum solar conditions become entrenched (similar to the Wolf Minimum) accompanied by Major Volcanic Activity I say a Little Ice Age will once again be in the making.
Milankovitch Cycles still favoring cold N.H. summers if not more so then during the last Little Ice Age , while the Geo Magnetic Field is weaker in contrast to the last Little Ice Age.
I would not be surprised if the next Little Ice Age comes about if the prolonged solar minimum expectations are realized in full.

Reply to  Salvatore Del Prete
August 11, 2015 10:42 am

(A) Geomagnetic dipole field strength relative to today (21). (B) Cosmic radiation based on the first principal component of several radionuclide records, 22-year averages, over the last 8,000 y. Time is given as year BP. The gray band represents the standard deviation of the individual radionuclide records without applying PCA (SI Appendix, Section S8). The black dashed line represents the average cosmic ray intensity for 1944–1988 AD. (C) Same as (B), but zoom-in of the past millennium. Capital letters mark grand solar minima: O: Oort, W: Wolf, S: Spörer, M: Maunder, D: Dalton, G: Gleissberg. (D) Same as (C), but zoom-in of the past 350 y. Time is given as year AD. Red circles and green curve are 22-year averages and yearly averages of cosmic ray intensity calculated with (3) using the solar modulation potential (38) obtained from neutron monitor and ionization chamber data (SI Appendix, Section S9). At the bottom the annual sunspot number is plotted (39).

August 11, 2015 9:18 am

“There haven’t been any flood-basalt volcanic eruptions in human history”
I guess that depends if you wish to count the ocean floors which are essentially ongoing flood basalt events along the entire ridge system.
In fairness there have been exceptional LIP events, some of which have laid down basalt on top of ocean floor. Seemingly, these events show no systematic relationship to temperature, sea level, or extinctions.comment imagecomment image

August 11, 2015 10:26 am

Once again in the debate about what drives climate we enter another extremely complex area – that of volcanic influence. For those wanting a good introduction to this complex issue I would recommend “Eruptions that shook the World” by Clive Oppenheimer. He give some good layman’s descriptions of the multiple types of eruptions in the globe’s passed, and explains why Tambora (indonesia, 1825) prossibly caused a major climate perturbation following its eruption.
Carbon dioxide is still a “bit” player in the global Climate game.

Gary Pearse
August 11, 2015 7:13 pm

The “traps” are basalts with little gas compared to the high volatile-bearing and explosive siliceous andesite to rhyolite types. Basalt fountains, although spectacular and dangerous because of the large bombs they throw up do not go very high and the coarser ejecta settle out quickly, much of it like a dropped baseball. There isn’t anything of the dust injected into the stratosphere you get from the explosive volcanoes Here are some little bombs:
here are some multi-ton sized:;_ylt=A0LEV2nwocpVh6EAVLTrFAx.;_ylc=X1MDMjExNDcyMTAwMwRfcgMyBGZyA21jYWZlZQRncHJpZAN0aGNUVk5RdlJqR0IxRzBxUzkxV3hBBG5fcnNsdAMwBG5fc3VnZwMxMARvcmlnaW4DY2Euc2VhcmNoLnlhaG9vLmNvbQRwb3MDMQRwcXN0cgNsYXJnZQRwcXN0cmwDNQRxc3RybAMyMARxdWVyeQNsYXJnZSB2b2xjYW5pYyBib21icwR0X3N0bXADMTQzOTM0NTM4Mg–?p=large+volcanic+bombs&

August 11, 2015 8:25 pm


August 12, 2015 1:35 am

Nothing new about suggestions that flood basalts could have affected climate and been associated with extinctions….
The correlations are a bit rough and at the moment it’s still may, perhaps, could have..
Lesser but more explosive events like Toba likely had intense local effects, including some short term climate and general environmental change [like being covered by several metres of volcanic ash].
Toba probably killed off our human cousins in south and east Asia opening up the area for settlement by H. sapiens

Reply to  GregK
August 12, 2015 11:29 am

“Toba probably killed off our human cousins in south and east Asia opening up the area for settlement by H. sapiens”
Probably not. Recent research shows cultural continuity in India before and after Toba; modern humans apparently arrived much later, c. 45,000 years ago.
It seems that Homo sapiens populations outside Africa more or less “exploded” about 50,000 years ago and settled almost all of Eurasia plus Austraslia, all in just several thousand years.

August 12, 2015 11:19 am

“There haven’t been any flood-basalt volcanic eruptions in human history”
Wrong. There has been one, the Laki eruption 1783-84. It put out 14 cubic kilometers of lava in 8 months, which is quite comparable with the estmated size of eruptive phases during other flood basalt episodes.
The Siberian Traps, the largest flood basalt eruption ever, erupted 4 million cubic kilometers in about one million years.

%d bloggers like this: