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.