ERUPTION COULD COOL DOWN HEATED RHETORIC
about global climate change are more polarized than those about whether
to let your cat outdoors. I find the evidence for climate change convincing.
Many talk radio hosts, some politicians, even a few scientists do not.
earth's base temperature has fluctuated over the centuries and has trended
upward during the last one. This is an accepted fact. The dispute begins
with the question of whether temperatures have risen enough to cause
noticeable environmental changes and rages on from there. Is the fundamental
cause of climate change carbon emissions from industrialized countries.
If so, should we do anything about it?
States decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has
led to arguments and ill will at state, national and international levels.
Should controls be placed on fossil fuel use? Should we make a worldwide
effort to mitigate what some view as a serious environmental problem?
If so, how? Strong political and personal opinions surround the issue.
A satisfactory resolution does not seem to be on the horizon.
global warming is a reality, and humans will learn firsthand about the
consequences of melting polar ice caps, shorter winters and longer summers.
But that outcome might be delayed by a natural event: the eruption of
a major volcano. A volcanic eruption of a magnitude that affects the
world's climates could temporarily mask all human influences.
cooling from a volcano occurs when airborne products from the eruptions
shield the earth from the suns rays. Volcanic ash, most of which
settles to earth within a few weeks, is not what blocks the sun's rays
for a long period. Sun-shielding is caused instead by tiny droplets
of sulfuric acid that can remain in the stratosphere for up to three
activity at the planets surface has been around since the earths
crust cooled and will continue for a few more billion years. The 1980
eruption of Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest
was the most memorable destructive volcanic eruption in the United States.
elsewhere have also made lasting impressions. Vesuvius resulted in lots
of mummified bodies in Pompeii, Italy, nearly 2,000 years ago. In 1792
landslides and tsunamis following the eruption of Mount Unzen in Japan
killed thousands of people. Mount Unzen came to life again in the early
1990s. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 garnered
worldwide attention not only because of the loss of life but also because
of global cooling some estimates are almost 1 degree Fahrenheit.
Spectacular sunsets could be seen for months.
of global cooling from momentous volcanic eruptions would confound interpretations
of already controversial studies about whether human activities are
a significant cause of global warming. The eruption of Krakatau in 1833
had a major influence on the environment.
blew its lid, an 18-square-mile volcanic island between Australia and
Borneo disappeared. The sound of the eruption was reportedly heard more
than 3,000 miles away. In Southeast Asia more than 36,000 people died.
Rocks and ash were thrown 15 miles high. The ash cloud was so thick
that villages 150 miles away were in darkness for days. A long solar
eclipse. If something of that magnitude occurred today, news stories
about human-caused atmospheric change would seem irrelevant.
the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora spewed enough ash and
aerosols into the atmosphere to create a cold snap that led to Europes
year without a summer. Another Krakatau or Tambora would
lay all arguments about global climate change to rest for a while. We
can certainly expect more environmental drama from volcanoes
but when and where?
of such eruptions would be spectacular and far-reaching. Because the
earth's temperature would change dramatically, the finger-pointing about
global warming would become completely irresolvable. Whatever else happens,
a cooling of the rhetoric is something to look forward to.
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