Explosive volcanism is known to be a leading natural cause of climate change. The second half of the 13th century was likely the most volcanically perturbed half-century of the last 2000 years, although none of the major 13th century eruptions have been clearly attributed to specific volcanoes. This period was in general a time of transition from the relatively warm Medieval period to the colder Little Ice Age, but available proxy records are insufficient on their own to clearly assess whether this transition is associated with volcanism. This context motivates our investigation of the climate system sensitivity to high- and low-latitude volcanism using the fully coupled NCAR Community Climate System Model (CCSM3). We evaluate two sets of ensemble simulations, each containing four volcanic pulses, with the first set representing them as a sequence of tropical eruptions and the second representing eruptions occurring in the mid-high latitudes of both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The short-term, direct radiative impacts of tropical and high-latitude eruptions include significant cooling over the continents in summer and cooling over regions of increased sea-ice concentration in Northern Hemisphere (NH) winter. A main dynamical impact of moderate tropical eruptions is a winter warming pattern across northern Eurasia. Furthermore, both ensembles show significant reductions in global precipitation, especially in the summer monsoon regions. The most important long-term impact is the cooling of the high-latitude NH produced by multiple tropical eruptions, suggesting that positive feedbacks associated with ice and snow cover could lead to long-term climate cooling in the Arctic.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science