Geology And Geophysics

Will Icelands Volcano Boost Geoengineering

Donna Hicks's image for:
"Will Icelands Volcano Boost Geoengineering"
Image by: 

Whether the March and April eruption of Iceland's volcano will boost geoengineering was  being debated before Eyjafjallajokull began spewing more ash clouds high into the air in early May. The issue of geoengineering will undoubtedly be even more hotly debated and discussed in light of the most recent ash clouds, which are turning the sky into a dark black plume.

There have been instances where volcanic eruptions have affected global climate, usually with a slight cooling effect. Depending upon how substantial the eruption is, and the amount of gasses and ash spewed into the atmosphere, the effect of climate change can last for years. When the volcanic ash reaches into the stratosphere, it remains for a long time. The ash blocks solar radiation from reaching the Earth and this is the main cause of the cooling effect.

The initial March and April eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull were too small to consider that some means of geoengineering would be necessary to prevent or arrest any possible significant climate change. Eyjafjallajokull is actually smaller than some of the other volcanoes of Iceland. The current eruption is only reaching into the lower atmosphere, not into the stratosphere where the climate changes are mainly caused. Therein lies part of the issues and debate concerning whether Eyjafjallajokull has the capacity to cause any significant climate change and whether geoengineering will be boosted as a result of the eruption.

Throughout history, every time that Eyjafjallajokull has erupted, so has Katla. Katla is much larger and is situated sixteen miles away and the devastation from Katla erupting has been significant and deadly, with global climate change. When Iceland's Katla erupted in the 1700’s and Laki in 1783, there were global weather pattern changes, as well as there being animals, plants and lives lost.

One of the most frequently suggested methods of geoengineering solution to climate change involves injecting huge amounts of aerosols into the atmosphere to reduce the amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth. But the key argument against geoengineering is that we do not know what the effects, especially in the long term, may be. The American Meteorological Society, representing meteorologists, says that we must be very careful, that geoengineering must be viewed with caution. The AMS feels that more research is needed, and that until we know what the effects are, we may risk triggering unforeseeable, and adverse consequences by utilizing geoengineering methods.

Even though Eyjafjallajokull does not warrant concerns of global climate changes at this time, scientists, researchers and other professionals are hoping that Eyjafjallajokull will be the eruption that gives us much needed data to help make a rational and necessary decision as to whether geoengineering will become necessary in the future.

We have dozens of active Earth observation satellites that were launched specifically as a result of concerns over climate changes. Eyjafjallajokull will peak the interest of researchers, scientists, volcanologists, meteorologists, and many others worldwide, but there simply is not yet the evidence that geoengineering measures are need at this time.


More about this author: Donna Hicks

From Around the Web