Research highlight

Tropical volcanic eruptions drive cooling in the tropics

Nature Geoscience

December 22, 2008

Over the past 450 years, the aerosols and gases emitted from volcanic eruptions in the tropics have caused tropical sea-surface temperatures to cool for years after the eruption, according to a study online in Nature Geoscience. Although a similar relationship has been observed in the high northern-latitudes, this is the first time a consistent pattern has been observed in the tropics.

Rosanne D’Arrigo and colleagues compiled temperature records from corals and tree rings throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans. Like the well-known cooling that followed the 1815 Tambora eruption in Indonesia, a clear correlation was found between the most explosive volcanic eruptions at low latitudes and decreased sea-surface temperatures in the following years. The team concludes that the relationship between eruptions and sea-surface cooling highlights the sensitivity of tropical temperatures to the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface.

doi: 10.1038/ngeo393

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