Volcano-Atmosphere Interactions

Volcano with emissionsIn addition to supplying important information about underground conditions, volcanic gases also play a number of very important roles, when released to the atmosphere. For instance, emitted SO2 is oxidised to form sulphate aerosol, which cools the Earth by reflecting sunlight back to space, hence countering anthropogenic global warming. Furthermore, these emissions are significant in respect of global geochemical cycles, for example representing the primary mechanism for the transit of volatiles from the mantle to the atmosphere. Finally, there is the recent discovery that tropospheric volcanic plumes are host to a series of fascinating and previously unrecognised chemical reactions, in particular, involving the depletion of ozone.

Recent Research Highlights

  • In view of the importance of volcanic gas release to the atmosphere in global geochemical cycles and the plumes' radiative and chemical impacts we have performed a number of studies aimed at better quantifying these discharges, particularly at the arc-scale, and in locations such as: Japan, Italy, the Marianas, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Antarctica and Hawaii. The most recent work to this end concerns volcanism in Kamchatka, from which an article is currently in review.
  • Ozone loss trace through the plume of EyjafjallajökullA seminal breakthrough in volcanology from the last decade has been the observation of bromine monoxide in tropospheric volcanic plumes, whose presence implies the depletion of ozone therein. We have empirically backed this up by reporting observations of ozone holes created by a number of volcanoes, in particular, over the UK during the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland.

    Vance, A., McGonigle, A.J.S., Aiuppa, A., Stith, J.L., Turnbull, K., and von Glasow, R. (2010). Ozone depletion in tropospheric volcanic plumes, Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L22802.