Thursday, June 03, 2010

Global Cold Wave May Be Looming — This Time, the Science Is Good

Global Cold Wave May Be Looming — This Time, the Science Is Good

La Nina, a solar minimum, and a massive volcanic eruption make a threesome of cold weather events not seen for two hundred years.

May 31, 2010
- by Art Horn
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This is not alarmist fantasy or 2012 babble — several natural forces that are known to cause cooling are awakening simultaneously, raising speculation of a "perfect storm" of downward pressures on global temperature. These forces let loose one at a time can cause the Earth to cool and can bring about harsh winter conditions. If they all break free at once, the effects could be felt not just in the coming winter, but year-round, and for several years to come.In a cosmically ironic twist of fate and timing, nature may be set to empirically freeze any and all anthropogenic global warming talk: a blast of Arctic cold may encase the earth in an icy grip not seen for 200 years.

On March 20, a volcano erupted on the island of Iceland. The eruption has continued at varying intensity to this day. A volcano erupting on Iceland is not an uncommon event — the island is one of the few spots where the mid-oceanic ridge rears up out of the water, revealing its violent personality. However, this particular volcano is different — it has acted as a reliable predictor of future much more explosive and consequential activity.

This volcano has only erupted three times since the 9th century, the last eruption occurring in the early 1820s. In the past, it has been followed by a much larger eruption by the nearby Katla volcano. Katla has erupted many times on its own, usually every 60 to 80 years, and last blew in 1918. It's overdue.

Magnus Tomi Gudmundson is a geophysicist at the University of Iceland, and an expert on volcanic ice eruptions:

There is an increasing likelihood we'll see a Katla eruption in the coming months or a year or two, but there's no way that's certain. …

From records we know that every time Eyjafjallajokull has erupted, Katla has also erupted.

The reason this is ominously significant is that these giant eruptions can change the weather on a planetary scale for years. Mount Laki, another large volcano in Iceland, has a history of producing climate changing eruptions. In the early summer of 1783, Laki erupted, releasing vast rivers of lava. The explosive volcano also ejected a massive amount of volcanic ash and sulfur dioxide into the air — the eruption was so violent that the ash and sulfur dioxide were injected into the stratosphere, some 8 miles up. This cloud was then swept around the world by the stratospheric winds. The result was a significant decrease in the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface for several years.

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