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Volcanoes slowed warming: Massive eruptions lessened global warming, says study

Have volcanoes slowed global warming here on Earth? A new study is suggesting that massive volcanic eruptions that occurred during the start of the 21st century actually lessened the onset of global warming by cooling our great planet. The Epoch Times reports this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, that this cooling effect has played a major role in countering the warming that greenhouse gases are leaving in their wake, but they may not be aiding us any longer.

Volcanoes have been slowing down global warming
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Published by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the new study on how volcanoes slowed warming argues that volcanic eruptions in the past have unknowingly served to keep Earth cool and prevent it from feeling the effects of climate change, partly brought on by greenhouse gases.

Although the research hints that the overall heat content of the ocean is continuing to increase, global temperatures on our planet’s surface and those within the troposphere — the scientific name for the lowest part of Earth’s massive atmosphere — have not experienced much warming since all the way back in 1988. This cooling effect is currently being called a “slow-down state,” or global warming “hiatus.”

This interesting study was published in the journal of Nature Geoscience, discussing that a number of massive eruptions from volcanoes have slowed global warming by injecting plumes of dioxide gas deep into the atmosphere. If these eruptions had the power to actually add dioxide into the higher layer of the stratosphere, then the gas at that point would create very small droplets of sulfuric acid. In turn, these makeshift droplets would then have the ability to reflect some of the sunlight hitting Earth right back into space, having the ability to overall cool the planet’s surface and lower its atmospheric temperature.

According to the press release on the volcanoes slowed warming finding:

“In the last decade, the amount of volcanic aerosol in the stratosphere has increased, so more sunlight is being reflected back into space,” said Lawrence Livermore climate scientist Benjamin Santer, who serves as lead author of the study, in a statement. “This has created a natural cooling of the planet and has partly offset the increase in surface and atmospheric temperatures due to human influence.”

Greenhouse gases levels are said to continue to increase as we push through 2014, however, and these gases have been around since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Unlike the power of massive volcano eruptions, these gases cool our stratosphere and actually warm the troposphere. Environmental researchers attest that a majority of publicized climate models and theories haven’t yet accurately taken the effects of eruptions into account.

“The recent slow-down in observed surface and tropospheric warming is a fascinating detective story,” Santer said. “There is not a single culprit, as some scientists have claimed. Multiple factors are implicated. One is the temporary cooling effect of internal climate noise. Other factors are the external cooling influences of 21st century volcanic activity, an unusually low and long minimum in the last solar cycle, and an uptick in Chinese emissions of sulfur dioxide.”

He added:

“The real scientific challenge is to obtain hard quantitative estimates of the contributions of each of these factors to climate change and the global warming hiatus.”

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