From: Rutgers University
Published October 4, 2017 08:21 AM

Large Volcanic Eruptions in Tropics Can Trigger El Niño Events

Explosive volcanic eruptions in the tropics can lead to El Niño events, those notorious warming periods in the Pacific Ocean with dramatic global impacts on the climate, according to a new study.

Enormous eruptions trigger El Niño events by pumping millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which form a sulfuric acid cloud, reflecting solar radiation and reducing the average global surface temperature, according to the study co-authored by Alan Robock, a distinguished professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

The study, published online today in Nature Communications, used sophisticated climate model simulations to show that El Niño tends to peak during the year after large volcanic eruptions like the one at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.

“We can’t predict volcanic eruptions, but when the next one happens, we’ll be able to do a much better job predicting the next several seasons, and before Pinatubo we really had no idea,” said Robock, who has a doctorate in meteorology. “All we need is one number – how much sulfur dioxide goes into the stratosphere – and you can measure it with satellites the day after an eruption.”

Read more at Rutgers University

Image: Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupting on June 12, 1991. A much larger eruption occurred three days later. (Credit: U.S. Geological Survey)

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