How a volcano short-circuited Earth’s ionosphere to trigger “Year Without A Summer”

Posted: August 23, 2018 by oldbrew in Electro-magnetism, research, volcanos, weather

Volcanic eruption

‘The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora was one of the most powerful in recorded history, with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 7’, says Wikipedia.

The unusually cold year of 1816 has been linked to one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in recorded history, and now we may know how, says New Atlas.

A new paper explains how electrified ash from the eruption could have “short-circuited” the Earth’s ionosphere and triggered the “Year Without A Summer.”

The year 1816 was a weird one, climatically speaking. Months that would normally be warm and pleasant were cold, rainy and overcast, leading to crop shortages across much of the Northern Hemisphere.

A new paper out of Imperial College London explains how electrified ash from the eruption could have “short-circuited” the Earth’s ionosphere and triggered the “Year Without A Summer.”

In April 1815, Mount Tambora, in what is now Indonesia, blew its lid. After a few months of rumbling and smoking away, it finally erupted with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 7, the largest volcanic eruption since the year 180 CE, with the explosion reportedly heard from as far as 2,600 km (1,600 mi) away.

Most importantly, the eruption launched about 10 billion tonnes of material into the atmosphere. Over the next year, this heavy ash cloud blanketed the Earth, reflecting sunlight and significantly reducing temperatures. Rain and snow fell in areas that should have been basking in summery weather, and almost 100,000 people are believed to have died as a result of the food shortage that followed.

Although the link was made between that eruption and the Year Without A Summer long ago, exactly what mechanisms were at play have remained a mystery. The Imperial College London study aimed to help explain how this dramatic climate event played out.

“Previously, geologists thought that volcanic ash gets trapped in the lower atmosphere, because volcanic plumes rise buoyantly,” says Matthew Genge, lead author on the study. “My research, however, shows that ash can be shot into the upper atmosphere by electrical forces.”

Continued here.

Research article (abstract): Electrostatic levitation of volcanic ash into the ionosphere and its abrupt effect on climate

  1. oldbrew says:

    This seems to be the media angle on the research…

    Sky News: Volcanic eruption ‘helped defeat Napoleon’, study claims

    A new paper into how volcanic eruptions shape the Earth’s weather has suggested an unlikely belligerent ended the Napoleonic Wars.

    Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle of Waterloo was caused in part by electrically charged ash from an Indonesian volcanic eruption in 1815, according to new research.

    The Duke of Wellington was assisted in defeating the forces of the French Empire by horrendous weather caused by the eruption, academics at Imperial College London have said.

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    The major eruption of Mt. Tambora was April 10, 1815.
    The battle of Waterloo was on June 18, 1815.
    It seems a very quick reaction to the eruption in Europe and as far as I know Waterloo didn’t take place during a snowstorm or heavy rain.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Graham – hard to say. Tambora was much bigger than most other eruptions of the last 2000 years but data is limited, so the Napoleon thing 2 months later may or may not be credible. The abstract says: ‘Because atmospheric electrical potential moderates cloud formation, large eruptions may have abrupt effects on climate through radiative forcing.’

    The French army was forced to march through rain and black coal-dust mud to reach Waterloo, and then to contend with mud and rain as it slept in the open.
    – – –
    But note this…
    1808/1809 mystery eruption

    A colossal volcanic eruption in the VEI 6 range is believed to have taken place in late 1808 and is suspected of contributing to a period of global cooling that lasted for years,[2][3] in a similar way to how the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora (VEI 7) led to the Year Without a Summer in 1816.

  4. Shaun says:

    Whereas ther Brits enjoyed localised sunny conditions and slept in 5 star hotels.

  5. oldbrew says:

    Shaun – when Boney and his troops turned up at what they thought was the battle site, there was nobody there.

    Wellington had decamped to a better site so they had to go looking for him.