Scientists learning ice cores packing in some 60,000 years of historical past have discovered indicators of 1000’s of volcanic eruptions throughout that point, stretching again to the final Ice Age – with 25 of the eruptions bigger than something Earth has seen within the final 2,500 years.


Researchers excavated the cores close to each poles: in Antarctica (the place 737 eruptions had been logged) and Greenland (the place 1,113 eruptions had been discovered). A complete of 85 eruptions had been massive sufficient to depart proof behind at each poles.

That proof takes the type of sulfuric acid deposits left behind by the eruptions. It offers researchers clues as to only how massive and impactful specific volcanoes have been.

Anders Svensson inspecting ice cores. (NEEM)

“To reconstruct historical volcanic eruptions, ice cores supply a couple of benefits over different strategies,” says physicist Anders Svensson from the College of Copenhagen in Denmark.

“At any time when a extremely massive eruption happens, sulfuric acid is ejected into the higher ambiance, which is then distributed globally – together with onto Greenland and Antarctica. We will estimate the dimensions of an eruption by trying on the quantity of sulfuric acid that has fallen.”

Utilizing the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), which ranges from a low of 1 to a excessive of 8, the staff discovered 69 volcanic eruptions that exceeded the 1815 Tambora eruption (VEI 7) – an occasion that was sufficient to dam out daylight and provoke a interval of world cooling.


These 69 eruptions embrace one in Lake Taupo, New Zealand, some 26,500 years in the past (VEI 8), and one in Toba, Indonesia, round 74,000 years in the past (VEI 8). As compared, the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland scored four on the VEI scale, whereas the 2011-2012 Puyehue-Cordón Caulle eruption in Chile reached VEI 5.

VEI 7 eruptions occur round a couple of times each thousand years, so we would not have a lot of a wait till the subsequent one. As for the subsequent VEI Eight eruption, it may very well be in 100 years or a couple of thousand years, in line with the researchers.

The eruptions logged within the ice cores would have been a lot greater in each sense than those in residing reminiscence and extra catastrophic by way of their affect on the planet. The analysis fills in a few of the blanks in Earth’s volcanic file, a file that prior to now has been a bit fuzzy past 2,500 years in the past.

“The brand new 60,000-year timeline of volcanic eruptions provides us with higher statistics than ever earlier than,” says Svensson.

“Now, we will see that many extra of those nice eruptions occurred in the course of the prehistoric Ice Age than in trendy occasions. As a result of massive eruptions are comparatively uncommon, an extended timeline is required to know once they happen. That’s what we now have.”


The researchers constructed on earlier work synchronizing timescales throughout ice cores taken from totally different poles – enabling them to extra precisely determine the eruptions that had vital results in each Antarctica and Greenland.

The analysis is greater than only a historical past lesson. Ice cores additionally seize temperatures earlier than and after eruptions, giving us a window into their impact on the worldwide local weather. The most important occasions could cause cooling for 5-10 years after the precise eruption.

Understanding how delicate Earth’s local weather is to main occasions like these documented within the ice cores can inform future local weather fashions – whether or not these fashions are trying on the subsequent volcanic eruption or the continuing affect of rising carbon dioxide ranges within the ambiance.

“Ice cores include details about temperatures earlier than and after the eruptions, which permits us to calculate the impact on local weather,” says Svensson. “As massive eruptions inform us quite a bit about how delicate our planet is to modifications within the local weather system, they are often helpful for local weather predictions.”

The analysis has been revealed in Local weather of the Previous.


By 24H

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