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Volcanic Emissions and Global Cooling

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Volcanic Emissions

As volcanoes erupt, they blast huge clouds into the atmosphere. These clouds are made up of particles and gases that were previously trapped in the geosphere, including sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, chlorine, argon, carbon monoxide, and water vapor. Millions of tons of harmful sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide gas can reach the stratosphere from a major volcano. While all these gases play a small part in volcanic-induced climate change, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide are by far the largest contributors to global cooling.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide emissions from volcanoes total around 110 million tons per year, but this number is extremely small if compared to the 10 billion tons put into the atmosphere by human activities. Despite being a greenhouse gas that is known for its global warming potential, carbon dioxide, combined with volcanic ash, actually act as short-term coolants in the atmosphere by acting as a “blanket” that absorbs the sun’s radiation in the stratosphere before it can reach the earth’s surface. There are those who argue that volcanic carbon dioxide emissions result in long-term global warming, but the amounts released by volcanoes have not proven to be substantial enough to significantly affect the global temperature in the long run.

Sulfur Dioxide

Sulfur dioxide has the most adverse effect on the atmosphere of any of the volcanic gases. Sulfur dioxide is converted to sulfuric acid within months of the eruption. Winds then spread these newly formed aerosols over the ...

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...here is a definite short-term global cooling process brought about by volcanic eruptions, there have been no noticeable long-term effects, other than the depletion of ozone due to the release of aerosols. The relatively small amount of harm done to the atmosphere by volcanoes cannot even compare to the extensive damage done by man.

Sources Cited

1. "Atmospheric Aersols: What are they, and why are they so important?" http://oea.larc.nasa.gov/PAIS/Aerosols.html

2. "Volcanoes and Climate." http://itg1.meteor.wisc.edu/wxwise/museum/a5/a5volcan.html

3. "Recent volcanic eruption data." http://skye.gsfc.nasa.gov

4. "The Science of Climate Change: The Aerosol Effect." http://www.panda.org/resources/publications

5. "The Effects of Volcanic Eruptions on Earth's Climate." http://www.geo.mtu.edu

6. "Volcanoes and global cooling." http://www.nasa.gov
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