Think the Bali Volcano Was Bad? Eruptions Will Only Increase as Climate Change Gets Worse

Tuesday, 28 November 2017 - 10:33AM
Earth
Tuesday, 28 November 2017 - 10:33AM
Think the Bali Volcano Was Bad? Eruptions Will Only Increase as Climate Change Gets Worse
Image credit: YouTube
With authorities urging more than 100,000 residents to evacuate Bali since Mount Agung began erupting Saturday, the next question isn't how did this happen—it's just how soon can we expect this to happen again?

Not very long, suggest volcano researchers. As climate change gets worse, volcanic eruptions will increase at an alarming rate in the future, according to a recently published new study. 

One lasting image from discussions of climate change is that of a polar bear stranded on a tiny piece of ice because of disappearing glaciers. That sad visual pulls at the heart strings of people who care about animals, but a new study by researchers at the University of Leeds in the UK paints a more terrifying picture of our planet engulfed in flames, thanks to an increase in eruptions caused by rapidly melting ice in volcanic regions.

By studying volcanic ash preserved in lake sediments and peat in Iceland, researchers determined that between 5,550 and 4,500 years ago there was a significant drop in volcanic activity in the region. 

This was directly correlated to a major dip in the Earth's temperature, which caused the glaciers in Iceland to grow. Now that the world is getting hotter faster, the melting ice is having the opposite effect. 



"When glaciers retreat there is less pressure on Earth's surface," explained study co-author Dr. Ivan Savov. "This can increase the amount of mantle melt as well as affect magma flow and how much magma the crust can hold." Savov added that it only takes "small changes" in pressure to affect how often ice-volcanos erupt, so basically we're screwed if we don't do something.

The silver lining (for those of us living in 2017, at least) is that the researchers also found that there was approximately a 600-year time lag between the climate shift and the decrease in eruptions. 

That means that we could be looking at a similar time frame for when the eruptions increase—but the human factor could speed up the process.

"The human effect on global warming makes it difficult to predict how long the time lag will be but the trends of the past show us more eruptions in Iceland can be expected in the future," said Dr Graeme Swindles of the School of Geography at Leeds.

"These long term consequences of human effect on the climate is why summits like COP [the United Nations' Conference of the Parties] are so important. It is vital to understand how actions today can impact future generations in ways that have not been fully realized, such as more ash clouds over Europe, more particles in the atmosphere and problems for aviation."
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Think the Bali Volcano Was Bad? Eruptions Will Only Increase as Climate Change Gets Worse