Our climate system is highly sensitive to major volcanic eruptions and the quasi-permanent veil of aerosols they leave behind, in the stratosphere. The summer 1816 also known as the "year without summer" had seen unusual low temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere with crop devastations because of an eruption thousand miles away, in Indonesia, Tambora. The eruption produced a thick stratospheric aerosol layer made of small sulfuric acid droplets for several months, which effectively scattered back solar radiation to space triggering subsequent surface cooling. Among other consequences, major volcanic eruptions are known to warm the stratosphere due to the absorption of terrestrial InfraRed Radiation and eventually modify the global atmospheric circulation and affect precipitations during the monsoons.
When Mt Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the last major volcanic eruption of the past 50 years, the global surface temperature dropped by 0.5° C for several years. The consequences of this eruption on our climate system is still debated today as we lack accuracy in the measured SO2 injected and the thickness of the aerosol plume prevented satellites to make complete profile observations through it.
To be ready for the next major eruption, the VolRes initiative was created. With 120 scientists, experts in satellite observations of SO2 and aerosols, ground and airborne measurements and in modelling the climate responses, our goal is to coordinate a plan for the next major volcanic eruption. Activities associated with VolRes can be found here and the discussion forum can be reached here .
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