Can small volcanic eruptions affect global climate? (+video)
New research suggests that assessments of climate variability should take volcanic activity into account.
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Researchers came to their conclusions by measuring the concentrations of volcanic gases emitted by eruptions using a satellite capable of looking sideways into different layers of the atmosphere and quantifying how much light was reflected, said study author Adam Bourassa, a researcher at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.Skip to next paragraph
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A single eruption of this size will not likely have a measurable effect on climate, but repeated eruptions of this size certainly could, said Hans Graf, a scientist at the University of Cambridge in England who wasn't involved in the research. This study shows that repeated small eruptions should be taken into account when studying past climate variability, he said.
Robock said he believes the effects from this and other small eruptions over the past decade may have tempered the warming of the planet. [Video: Earth's Warming Since 1880]
The researchers calculated that Nabro emitted 1.4 million tons (1.3 billion kilograms) of sulfur dioxide, the largest release since Pinatubo, which spewed more than 10 times that amount, Robock said. But it wasn't a very explosive eruption, and because at first it didn't look like the gases reached the stratosphere, researchers "kind of forgot about it," he said.
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