When faced with claims that climate change increased earthquakes and volcano eruptions, I'd always scoffed, thinking there was no evidence. That's just changed for volcanic eruption.
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.
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"...
...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. [emphasis mine]
Given that the rate of temperature change matters, it seems plausible that we're in for higher volcanic activity.
Thank you Ruth. Climate change causes so many imbalances in the ecosystem. I am sure we will be reading more research regarding all the imbalances.
That's interesting and it once again shows how important basic research is.