Climatic response to high-latitude volcanic eruptions

Luke Oman*, Alan Robock, Georgiy Stenchikov, Gavin A. Schmidt, Reto Ruedy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Strong volcanic eruptions can inject large amounts ot SO2 into the lower stratosphere, which over time, are converted into sulfate aerosols and have the potential to impact climate. Aerosols from tropical volcanic eruptions like the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption spread over the entire globe, whereas high-latitude eruptions typically have aerosols which remain in the hemisphere in which they where injected. This causes their largest radiative forcing to be extratropical, and the climate response should be different from that of tropical eruptions. We conducted a 20-member ensemble simulation of the climate response to the Katmai eruption (58°.N) of 6 June 1912 using the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies ModelE climate model. We also produced an additional 20-member ensemble for a 3 times Katmai (3x Katmai) eruption to see the impact the strength of the eruption has on the radiative as well as the dynamical responses. The results of these simulations do not show a positive Arctic Oscillation response like past simulations of tropical volcanic eruptions, but we did find significant cooling over southern Asia during the boreal winter. The first winter following Katmai and the second winter following 3x Katmai showed strong similarities in lower stratospheric geopotential height anomalies and sea level pressure anomalies, which occurred when the two cases had similar optical depth perturbations. These simulations show that the radiative impact of a high-latitude volcanic eruption was much larger than the dynamical impact at high latitudes. In the boreal summer, however, strong cooling over the Northern Hemisphere landmasses caused a decrease in the Asian monsoon circulation with significant decreases of up to 10% in cloud cover and warming over northern India. Thus the main dynamical impact of highlatitude eruptions is in the summer over Asia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD13103
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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