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Volcanic ash may have a larger influence on planet’s climate

Date: 13 September 2020 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

A new study suggests that such volcanic ash may also have a larger influence on the planet's climate than scientists previously suspected.

 

Background

The new research examines the eruption of Mount Kelut (or Kelud) on the Indonesian island of Java in 2014 for the study.

 

Details

  • The team discovered that volcanic ash seems to be prone to loitering -- remaining in the air for months or even longer after a major eruption.

  • Scientists have long known that volcanic eruptions can take a toll on the planet's climate. These events blast huge amounts of sulphur-rich particles high into Earth's atmosphere where they can block sunlight from reaching the ground.

  • The chunks of rocky debris, from the eruption are so heavy that most of them likely fall out of volcanic clouds not long after an eruption.

  • The group however discovered that the volcano's plume seemed to be full of small and lightweight particles of ash -- tiny particles that were likely capable of floating in the air for long periods of time, much like dandelion fluff.

  • Erupting volcanoes spew out a large amount of sulfur dioxide. Many researchers previously assumed that those molecules interact with others in the air and convert into sulphuric acid.

  • Those molecules of sulphur dioxide seem to stick to the particles of ash floating in the air.

  • In the process, they may undergo chemical reactions on the surface of the ash itself -- potentially pulling around 43% more sulphur dioxide out of the air.

  • Long-lasting particles in the atmosphere could, potentially, darken and even help to cool the planet after an eruption.

  • Floating ash might also blow all the way from sites to the planet's poles. There, it could kickstart chemical reactions that would damage Earth's all-important ozone layer. 

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