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August 03 2012


On Our Radar: Hunger in North Korea

Floods have swept away crops and damaged wells and pumping stations, leaving many without food or clean drinking water, a United Nations agency said.

January 06 2012


Rethinking the Effects of Aerosols

A study projects that the elimination of direct atmospheric aerosols over the eastern United States would increase ground temperatures.
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November 16 2011


2 Views of Aerosols and Climate Change

A new study suggests that aerosols can make dry regions even drier and worsen rain and snow in wetter regions. A different study says aerosols' cloud-thickening effects, however, help block sunlight that might otherwise warm the planet.

August 22 2010


New Computer Model Advances Climate Change Research

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100818154730.htm ScienceDaily (Aug. 19, 2010) — Scientists can now study climate change in far more detail with powerful new computer software released by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The Community Earth System Model (CESM) will be one of the primary climate models used for the next assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate [...]

June 03 2010


April 20 2010


What Effect Will the Iceland Volcano Have on Climate?

As the spectacular eruption of Eyjafjoell volcano in Iceland brings most transcontinental air travel between Europe and North America to a screeching halt, the question arises out here in the blogosphere: what effect will the eruption have on global climate?

The short answer is none, or very little, or who knows?

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the worlds volcanoes emit about 200 million tons of CO2 annually on average. The EPA estimates that in 2006, human activity accounted for 28 trillion metric tons of CO2 emissions. Despite the dramatic impact the Iceland volcano, it's emission are fairly small, only spewing an estimated one million metric tons of CO2. All told, volcanic activity probably equals only about 0.7% of anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Fortunately, large-scale eruptions are relatively rare, at least on the scale of human lifetimes. But the downside to that is that scientists don't get a lot of opportunities to study the formation of other invisible gases, such as sulphur dioxide, formed along with the great plume of ash in volcanic eruptions, or where those gases may eventually end up in the atmosphere.

When sulfur dioxide mixes with water, aerosols, or fine particulates, of sulfuric acid is produced that can reflect back sunlight into space when those aerosols reach the stratosphere, so despite the addition of greenhouse gases from volcanoes, large eruption can have a short-term cooling effect on climate, such as after the significantly larger 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines, that cooled the planet for about a year.

Mount Pinatubo sent approximately 200 megatons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. By contrast, the Iceland eruption has thus far only shot out 0.004 megatons. Also, Pinatubo is located in the lower latitudes, considered the "sweet spot" for a volcano to have a global climate effect, as the ejected gases more easily spread across latitudes. Even if the gases ejected from the Iceland eruption do reach the stratosphere, they likely will not spread to other latitudes.

Also, in regard to short-term emissions and climactic effects, the grounding of thousands of airplanes in Europe has temporarily reduced anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

So to answer the question a bit more definitively what effect the Eyjafjoell volcano will have on global climate, I say, "not much".

Of course, that's little comfort for the stranded passenger languishing at Heathrow, waiting to go home.


How do you pronounce it? Beats me.


Sources and further reading:
Discovery News
Hamari News

Image credit: Huffington Post

February 04 2010


Black Carbon a Significant Factor in Melting of Himalayan Glaciers

The fact that glaciers in the Himalayan mountains are thinning is not disputed. However, few researchers have attempted to rigorously examine and quantify the causes. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Surabi Menon set out to isolate the impacts of the most commonly blamed culprit—greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide—from other particles in the air that [...]
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