January 20, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Volcanoes Cause Global Warming

Volcanic eruptions can warm and cool the climate. Predicting which
outcome will occur exceeds the uncertainties in geophysical knowledge.


Last Saturday, January 15th, 2022, a “once-in-a-millennium” volcanic eruption occurred. Near the Polynesian nation of Tonga, within 10 minutes (Phys.org), a huge volcano exploded and threw ash 39 km (24 miles) into the atmosphere, comparable to Indonesia’s Mt Pinatubo’s eruption of 1991. This was the second largest volcanic eruption on Earth in three decades, and the most powerful eruption of this volcano (named Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai) since 1100 A.D. Except for the top 100 meters, most of this volcano is underwater. The eruption blasted away most of the surface crater.

The event “triggered a tsunami, a sonic boom and thousands of lightning bolts, and could now lead to acid rain,” reported Alice Klein in New Scientist. The sonic boom was heard in Fiji, 1,000 km away (hear a recording of the blast in the article). Satellites captured the massive eruption, shown in time-lapse video clips. It could be seen from far away in earth orbit. Gareth Dorrian of the University of Birmingham says in The Conversation that he is analyzing satellite data for evidence of ripples in the ionosphere from the eruption.

Volcano eruption in Tonga Jan 15, 2022. (Earth Observatory satellite, NASA)

Fortunately, the eruption was short and primarily upward. Although the gigantic mushroom cloud blanketed Tonga’s islands with acidic volcanic ash, the ash is not considered toxic (in fact, it may act as fertilizer for the plant life after it washes into the soil, says Phys.org). By Wednesday, 3 deaths were reported in Tonga – a remarkably low number for such a powerful event. The tsunami “reached as far as the coast of Japan, Alaska and South America,” says Live Science, but damage appeared to be minimal. Two people drowned on a beach in Peru from the waves, New Scientist mentioned.

Although there were rumblings of activity in the volcano, this eruption on January 15th was a sudden event of unexpected magnitude. Are climate models taking into account the uncertainties of volcanic influences on climate?

Volcanoes Can Cool the Planet

The articles are claiming that this eruption is unlikely to cause global cooling. The Pinatubo eruption of 1991 lowered average global temperatures for two years. Scientists say the cause was an enormous volume of aerosols composed primarily of sulfur dioxide (SO2) cast high into the stratosphere. The Tonga eruption, by contrast, only erupted 2% of that amount of SO2, Live Science says. Any long-term effects on climate remain to be seen but are considered unlikely.

Hot volcanoes and scorching meteor impacts can cause extinction-level cooling, though. Most scientists who accept the Darwin timeline believe that the extinction of dinosaurs was caused by a “nuclear winter” scenario when the Chicxulub impact cast enormous quantities of dust into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and freezing the climate for centuries afterward. Other geophysicists attribute the extinction to volcanic activity in India (the Deccan traps) that similarly would have clouded the planet with volcanic ash and dust.

Volcanoes Can Warm the Planet

The eruption of Hunga Tonga raises the issue of volcanic carbon dioxide. None of the articles cited above mention CO2 emitted by the volcano. Phys.org mentions “gas” from the eruption and Live Science mentions “large volumes of gas” – but what gas? New Scientist mentions “large amounts of sulphur dioxide gas” which, as said above, is considered too little to cause Pinatubo-like cooling. It seems certain that other gases were in the mix, and one known component of volcanic “gas” is carbon dioxide.

Scientists at the University of Cologne wrote on January 20 about “Mt. Etna’s exceptional CO2 emissions” that were “triggered by deep carbon dioxide reservoirs.” The amount of CO2 in volcanic reservoirs apparently varies by location.

Over the geological times, variations in atmospheric CO2 depended mainly on volcanic emissions, which are difficult to estimate because they are not directly related to the volume of the magmas erupted. Indeed, some volcanoes show exceptionally large emission of CO2 when compared to the amount that can be dissolved in their magmas. Etna is perhaps the most striking example, contributing to 10 per cent (9000 tons/day) of the present global volcanic CO2 emission. That is three times more CO2 than a volcano like Kilauea (Hawaii) emits, which erupts four times more magma.

Scientists can certainly measure carbon ratios in specific volcanoes like Etna and Kilauea in the present, but how certain are estimates of CO2 from other volcanoes over earth history?

Lead author Dr Alessandro Bragagni, former postdoc at Cologne and now at the University of Florence, added: ‘Similar carbon-rich domains might be hidden beneath other volcanoes worldwide, hence contributing to their CO2 emissions. The innovative trace element approach used in this study represents a promising way to better estimate the contribution of carbon-enriched lithosphere to overall volcanic CO2 emissions, both at present and in the past, which may have played a key role in changing the climate of our planet.’

Volcanoes Warmed the Planet in the Past

Indeed, scientists believe that volcanoes have caused global warming in the past. Accepting the Darwin timeline for the sake of argument, look at what this paper in Geophysical Research Letters says. Longman et al. on January 10, 2022 wrote about “Assessing Volcanic Controls on Miocene Climate Change.” They say that there was a period of global warming in the Miocene caused by volcanic activity. They link the activity to the eruptions that created the massive lava formations along the Columbia River in Oregon.

The Miocene period was much warmer than today, with the Mid Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO, roughly 17–15 million years ago) especially warm. Due to the high surface temperatures, comparisons to projected climatic conditions as a result of anthropogenic climate change have been drawn. However, the drivers of climate during the Miocene are not well understood. By using a new type of climate model, we investigate the impact volcanic eruptions had on the period, and link the extreme warmth of the MMCO with greenhouse gas release from the eruption of the Columbia River Basalts Group (CRBG). We find weathering of the CRBG does not explain the cooling at the end of the MMCO, and so discuss other potential explanations such as evaporite deposition.

No single research paper is going to resolve a linkage between volcanoes and global warming, but several possibilities stand out from this paper. One is that volcanoes can cause global warming comparable to anthropogenic climate change. Another is that historical climate estimations are “not well understood.” Logically, then, future climate predictions are also not well understood, otherwise “a new type of climate model” would not have been needed.

Two other things are more certain: volcanoes can emit enormous quantities of greenhouse gases, and they are hard to predict. The Tonga eruption illustrates those certainties.

Natural Methane Causes Global Warming

Methane is 24 to 120 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, said New Scientist on December 1, and we should be worried about it enough to take action. According to warmists, methane (CH4) dissipates more rapidly than CO2. Still, it must be considered in climate models, and now more of it is being discovered from natural sources.

University of Washington researchers knew about methane bubbles rising in Puget Sound, but were recently surprised at how much there is. Watch the bubbles emerging from the seafloor in a video in the UW press release from Jan 19, 2022. They don’t know if the methane is produced by geological subduction, by biological organisms, or something else. They obviously don’t know how many other estuaries around the world are pumping out the potent greenhouse gas.

On January 7th, New Scientist got really worried about methane. Adam Vaughan wrote that “Record levels of greenhouse gas methane are a ‘fire alarm moment’” of global concern. They don’t know if weather patterns, such as the El Nino / La Nina cycles are causing the increases, or “changes in wetlands and agriculture in the tropics and – to a lesser degree – by leaks from oil and gas production,” or something else.

If scientists keep finding uncertainties like these about natural processes, how can they be sure that humans are responsible for warming the planet?

Significant volcanism can blow away the IPCC models that are panicking governments of the world. We need to ask them, “What do you really know?” Every time CEH reads the latest research papers, new uncertainties appear (e.g., 17 Dec 2021). The uncertainties get magnified the farther in time they extrapolate, forward or backward, from the present.

Here’s the tie-in to creation issues: the same people saying “Evolution is a fact” are the ones saying “Man-caused climate change is a fact.” The same dogmatic, totalitarian, cancel-culture mindset pervades the vaccine-mandate crowd, climate change alarmism and dogmatic Darwinism. See our op-ed on “How to Tell Who’s Lying” (January 1). We prefer looking at the evidence and using critical thinking.



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