San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Volcanic eruptions

Costa Rica's erupting volcanoes may help slow global warming

The October eruption of the Turrialba Volcano may have implications beyond Costa Rica. According to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Review Letters last week, small volcanic eruptions like that of Turrialba may play a big role in slowing climate change.
Scientists have long known about the climate cooling affects of the massive amount of sulfuric acid expelled during a volcanic eruption. The acid makes its way into the upper atmosphere where it mixes with oxygen and blocks solar rays from reaching the Earth’s surface. The solar-blocking effects can last for months, causing the Earth’s surface to cool over time.

Recommended: The tiny fish that captures more carbon than the rain forest

The 1991 eruption of the Mount Pinatubo Volcano in the Philippines spewed 20 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, and scientists estimate it contributed to a global cooling of up to 0.04 degrees Celsius. But while large eruptions are widely recognized as climate coolers, the gas contributed by small eruptions was written off as insignificant.

But after 1998, warming began to slow and the atmosphere entered into what scientists call the “global warming hiatus.” The hiatus went against all previous climate change models, which predicted that temperatures would steadily increase through the early 2000s. Scientists knew they had missed something.

By using satellites, ground monitoring stations and suspended hot air balloons, researchers studied the suspended air particles in the lower parts of the atmosphere. The study found that between the years 2000 and 2013, volcanic gasses deflected nearly double the solar waves as previously estimated, cooling the Earth by as much as 0.12 degrees Celsius.

“This is part of the story about what has been driving climate change for the past 15 years,” Alan Robock, a climatologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey told the American Geophysical Union. “It’s the best analysis we’ve had of the effects of a lot of small volcanic eruptions on climate.”

Though relatively insignificant in terms of the size of eruptions, Costa Rica’s volcanoes likely contribute to this global cooling.

For years, Arenal Volcano in the country’s northeast spewed lava and gas on a daily basis, but in 2010 the eruptions abruptly paused. The country’s most active volcano is now Turrialba, some 60 kilometers northeast of the capital, which had its largest eruption in more than 150 years on Oct. 30, 2014.

According to María Martínez, a volcanologist with the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI), Turrialba spills between 400 and 1,000 metric tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere each day. During the explosions between Oct. 20 and 31, the volcano spewed between 5,000 and 10,000 metric tons per day.

“Compared to other volcanoes throughout the world, our volcanoes don’t erupt often,” María Martínez told The Tico Times. “But they still release a pretty significant amount of gas. Turrialba is one of the most active volcanoes in the region.”

Recommended: Turrialba Volcano eruption in Costa Rica: Photos from the web


Contact Lindsay Fendt at

Log in to comment

Rick Nelson

No matter what they find and or try to push as climate change, “science”, one thing is for sure:
Man will always be to blame. How else could the thousands of researchers make a living? Unless people, governments and companies are made to pay somehow, they might have to actually do something useful. Yes, ask ALBOre he made the fear tactic pay handsomely. Much knowledge but little wisdom can only lead to self-gratification with your tax $$.

0 0
J-p A Maldonado

While I was with the Service Test Division of the Naval Air Test Center PAXRIV, Dr. Reid Bryson, THE meteorological guru at University of Wisconsin – Madison flew with us on climate research missions to Yellowknife, NWT and Fort Churchill, Man., to evaluate freezing and thawing cycles of polar waters. Sadly. the mission to evaluate deforestation of the Rajasthan desert in India was canceled due to Indian-Pakistani conflict. Dr. Bryson was a firm believer in global cooling as a result of human activity and volcanic eruptions, combined. I wish he were still alive to hear what he had to say about AlBore and his pseudo-science concerning global warming. BTW, has ANYONE heard a peep from AlBore lately, now that we have been repeatedly hit with polar weather? For interesting reading, do some research on REID BRYSON, PHD UNIV OF WISCONSIN MADISON METEOROLOGY GLOBAL COOLING

0 0

GW denier evokes disproved theory in a string of folksy drivel. Evokes Al Gore for some kind of retributive justification of being denier amid physical evidence and more than 95% of all science experts published evidence to his denier stupidity.

Drink. / strawman

0 0