Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When the ice melts, the Earth spews fire

Date:
December 19, 2012
Source:
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)
Summary:
It has long been known that volcanic activity can cause short-term variations in climate. Now, researchers have found evidence that the reverse process also occurs: Climate affects volcanic activity.

The Villarica volcanoe in Chile.
Credit: M. Nicolai, GEOMAR

It has long been known that volcanic activity can cause short-term variations in climate. Now, researchers at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany), together with colleagues from Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) have found evidence that the reverse process also occurs: Climate affects volcanic activity.

Their study is now online in the international journal Geology.

In 1991, it was a disaster for the villages nearby the erupting Philippine volcano Pinatubo. But the effects were felt even as far away as Europe. The volcano threw up many tons of ash and other particles into the atmosphere causing less sunlight than usual to reach Earth's surface. For the first few years after the eruption, global temperatures dropped by half a degree. In general, volcanic eruptions can have a strong short-term impact on climate. Conversely, the idea that climate may also affect volcanic eruptions on a global scale and over long periods of time is completely new. Researchers at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany) and Harvard University in Massachusetts (USA) have now found strong evidence for this relationship from major volcanic eruptions around the Pacific Ocean over the past 1 million years. They have presented their results in the latest issue of the international journal "Geology."

The basic evidence for the discovery came from the work of the Collaborative Research Centre "Fluids and Volatiles in Subduction Zones (SFB 574). For more than ten years the project has been extensively exploring volcanoes of Central America. "Among others pieces of evidence, we have observations of ash layers in the seabed and have reconstructed the history of volcanic eruptions for the past 460,000 years," says GEOMAR volcanologist Dr Steffen Kutterolf, who has been with SFB 574 since its founding. Particular patterns started to appear. "There were periods when we found significantly more large eruptions than in others" says Kutterolf, the lead author of the Geology article.After comparing these patterns with the climate history, there was an amazing match. The periods of high volcanic activity followed fast, global temperature increases and associated rapid ice melting.

To expand the scope of the discoveries, Dr Kutterolf and his colleagues studied other cores from the entire Pacific region. These cores had been collected as part of the International Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and its predecessor programmes. They record more than a million years of Earth's history. "In fact, we found the same pattern from these cores as in Central America" says geophysicist Dr Marion Jegen from GEOMAR, who also participated in the recent study.Together with colleagues at Harvard University, the geologists and geophysicists searched for a possible explanation. They found it with the help of geological computer models. "In times of global warming, the glaciers are melting on the continents relatively quickly. At the same time the sea level rises. The weight on the continents decreases, while the weight on the oceanic tectonic plates increases. Thus, the stress changes within in the Earth to open more routes for ascending magma" says Dr Jegen.

The rate of global cooling at the end of the warm phases is much slower, so there are less dramatic stress changes during these times. "If you follow the natural climate cycles, we are currently at the end of a really warm phase. Therefore, things are volcanically quieter now. The impact from human-made warming is still unclear based on our current understanding" says Dr Kutterolf. The next step is to investigate shorter-term historical variations to better understand implications for the present day.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Kutterolf, M. Jegen, J. X. Mitrovica, T. Kwasnitschka, A. Freundt, P. J. Huybers. A detection of Milankovitch frequencies in global volcanic activity. Geology, 2012; DOI: 10.1130/G33419.1

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). "When the ice melts, the Earth spews fire." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219133551.htm>.
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). (2012, December 19). When the ice melts, the Earth spews fire. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219133551.htm
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). "When the ice melts, the Earth spews fire." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219133551.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins