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Mise à jour: 14.09.2016

Archives InterroGE - Question / réponse

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Why do volcanoes have an impact on climate change ?

Question répondue le 02.10.2017

Thank you for using Interroge, here are the results of our research :

You can read in the paper "How do volcanoes affect the climate ?" published in "The Guardian" on February 2011 :

« When volcanoes erupt, they emit a mixture of gases and particles into the air. Some of them, such as ash and sulphur dioxide, have a cooling effect, because they (or the substances they cause) reflect sunlight away from the earth. Others, such as CO2, cause warming by adding to the the greenhouse effect
. »

On the website "Scientific american", Karen Harpp, an assistant professor of geology at Colgate University, provided an explanation on April 2002 about "How do volcanoes affect world climate ?" :

« In 1784, Benjamin Franklin made what may have been the first connection between volcanoes and global climate while stationed in Paris as the first diplomatic representative of the United States of America. He observed that during the summer of 1783, the climate was abnormally cold, both in Europe and back in the U.S. The ground froze early, the first snow stayed on the ground without melting, the winter was more severe than usual, and there seemed to be "a constant fog over all Europe, and [a] great part of North America."
What Benjamin Franklin observed was indeed the result of volcanic activity. »
The type of volcano involved was in fact « a chain of volcanoes in which the lava erupts through a crack in the ground » located in Iceland and called "The Laki fissure system".

The Center for Science Education (UCAR) provides more information about "How Volcanoes Influence Climate"

« The gases and dust particles thrown into the atmosphere during volcanic eruptions have influences on climate. Most of the particles spewed from volcanoes cool the planet by shading incoming solar radiation. The cooling effect can last for months to years depending on the characteristics of the eruption. Volcanoes have also caused global warming over millions of years during times in Earth’s history when extreme amounts of volcanism occurred, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Even though volcanoes are in specific places on Earth, their effects can be more widely distributed as gases, dust, and ash get into the atmosphere. Because of atmospheric circulation patterns, eruptions in the tropics can have an effect on the climate in both hemispheres while eruptions at mid or high latitudes only have impact the hemisphere they are within.
Below is an overview of materials that make their way from volcanic eruptions into the atmosphere: particles of dust and ash, sulfur dioxide, and greenhouse gases like water vapor and carbon dioxide. »

And finally, this publication by Henry Stommel, Professor of oceanography at Harvard, and Elizabeth Stommel "Volcano Weather, the story of 1816, the year without a summer" which illustrates « the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 - the most explosive volcano in the last 10,000 years - and the extraordinary events that occurred one year later in New England and Northern Europe [...] »

Another title of interest, published by Professor Gillen D’Arcy Wood is "Tambora. The eruption that changed the world" available on the Princeton University Press website :

« When Indonesia's Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. The volcano’s massive sulfate dust cloud enveloped the Earth, cooling temperatures and disrupting major weather systems for more than three years. Communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale. »

We hope these elements will help you with your research. Please don’t hesitate to contact us again if you have any further questions.

Yours faithfully,

La Bibliothèque du Musée d'histoire des sciences



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