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Can Global Warming Affect Volcanic Eruptions?

Science has always fascinated me. This includes not only the ecological sciences, which I studied in school, but other endeavors, as well.

Etna's Latest Eruption

A strong telephoto lens on the camera, gives this nocturnal image, extra drama

A strong telephoto lens on the camera, gives this nocturnal image, extra drama

The Present Situation

As I write this (early March 2021), volcanoes are erupting everywhere, or so it seems. The most spectacular is Mt. Etna located on the Mediterranean Isle of Sicily. Every few days, video clips go sailing across the internet, of fiery nocturnal fountains of lava shooting hundreds of meters into the sky.

And it's not just Sicily, for active volcanic sites can be found in places like Hawaii, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Peru and Ecuador. Overall, there are at least forty active volcanoes for this any date, but this is not out of the ordinary, for volcanic activity on the planet earth is generally considered a constant affair.

The V.E.I. Index

These three letters stand for Volcanic Explosivity Index, which is a simple numerical scale, running from 1 to 8. These numerical ratings are the current standard to measure and rate exploding volcanoes.In essence, the numbers signify an actual mathematical calculation of the volume of ash, hot lava and sulfur droplets released into the atmosphere during the course of an ongoing eruption.

One is the lowest rating and eight is the highest with each subsequent step being 10 times greater than the numeral before it. Thus a V.E.I.7 volcano is 10 times bigger than a V.E.I.6 eruption. Since Tambora was a VEI 7 and Krakatoa a VEI 6.Therefore Tambora was 10 times bigger than Krakatoa.

A VEI 8 volcano is also known as a supervolcano. The last supervolcano was believed to have occurred in New Zealand over 20,000 years ago.

A Mighty Blast in 1883

A nineteenth century illustrator depicts the massive 1883 eruption of Krakatoa just off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

A nineteenth century illustrator depicts the massive 1883 eruption of Krakatoa just off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Tambora and Krakatoa

The volcanoes, Tambora and Krakatoa, were two huge 19th century eruptions that were quite destructive regionally, while at the same time affecting weather pattern around the planet. Tambora, which erupted in 1815, is widely believed to have been the larger of the two, even though Krakatoa is still etched in our minds, most likely because this volcano was quite spectacular and more widely recorded because it was located closer to large population centers. Furthermore it occurred some 60 years later on in the 19th century, when worldwide communications were better developed

Mt. Tambora and Its Effects on Human History

New Zealand's Super Volcano

Marked today by a scenic lake, the Taupo volcano erupted as a VEI * supervolcano in 26,000 B.C.

Marked today by a scenic lake, the Taupo volcano erupted as a VEI * supervolcano in 26,000 B.C.

Supervolcanoes Today and Yesterday

Even though, there hasn't been a supervolcano eruption in more than twenty thousand years, most earth scientist seem to be in agreement that more of these massive, weather-changing events are possible in the future. In recent years, earth scientists have been able to track down enormously, large craters that were once ancient sites for gigantic eruptions, far greater than we have ever seen in the recent course of human memory.

Just within the United States, supervolcanoes are once have thought to have erupted in places like Yellowstone, Long Valley (CA) and Valles Caldera (NM). Furthermore these places are considered active sites, even though they have not erupted in at least 10,000 years. Such is the nature of geologic time.

Mount Erebus on Ross Island in Antarctica

Mount Erebus is an active volcano in Antarctica

Mount Erebus is an active volcano in Antarctica

Ice and Volcanoes

One manner that global warming could affect volcanoes is through the meltdown of the vast ice sheets and glaciers that cover active volcanoes in such places as Antarctica, Iceland, Russia and Alaska. We have already witnessed some reduction of ice sheets in these places, but fortunately no active volcanoes have emerged from this slowly, changing situation.

Nonetheless, some scientists feel that prolonged global warming could kick off more volcanic activity.


Vesuvius Today

Mt. Vesuvius is an active volcano near Naples, Italy, whereabouts millions of people live in close vicinity to the peak.

Mt. Vesuvius is an active volcano near Naples, Italy, whereabouts millions of people live in close vicinity to the peak.

An Overcrowded Planet.

Back in 79 A.D.when, the Vesuvius Volcano erupted with little or no warning, it completely buried the city of Pompei with hot lava and ash. Vesuvius is still active today and scientists fear that a major eruption in the 21st century would be cataclysmic, especially considering the millions of people that live in the mountain's shadow. Today, this situation is repeated all across the planet, as our global population soars towards 8 billion and volcanic activity shows no signs of easing up.

The realization that today so many more people are at risk from a potentially active volcano, may create the fear that our planet is more geologically active than it has been in the past. Although hard to prove, most earth scientists don't give a lot of credence to the idea that our planet is becoming more active in a geological sense.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Harry Nielsen

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