Taxonomy term

volcanic eruption

The mackerel year: Tambora changed how New England fished

The 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Tambora Volcano led to a 1- to 1.5-degree-Celsius drop in the average global temperature, prompting 1816 to be called the “year without a summer.” New research analyzes weather data and historical records from New England to explain why, in the northeast U.S., 1816 was also called the “mackerel year.” As eruption-induced extreme weather triggered food scarcity in some areas, including a reduction in alewife numbers along the U.S. Atlantic coast, fishermen in the Gulf of Maine turned to mackerel fisheries farther offshore that had been neglected while more easily fished coastal and freshwater species were available.

06 Jun 2017

Benchmarks: June 1977: First Excavations at Nebraska's Ashfall Fossil Beds

In the spring of 1971, paleontologist Mike Voorhies was mapping rock exposures on a farm in northeastern Nebraska when he wandered into a small ravine that recent heavy rains had swept clean of debris. High on the gully wall, a change in the color of the rock caught his eye, so he decided to scramble up and take a closer look.

31 May 2017

Timing of famed "Millennium Eruption" pinpointed

Changbaishan Volcano in northeastern China, on the border with North Korea (where it’s known as Mount Paektu), is steeped in superstition, having produced devastating eruptions several times in recorded history. Legends that a massive eruption in the 10th century led to the downfall of a regional empire have now been refuted, however, thanks to a new analysis of a fossilized tree killed by the eruption that dates the eruption to after the kingdom fell.

25 May 2017

How often should we expect volcanic ash clouds over Europe?

In 2010, an ash cloud from an eruption at Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano led to the most disruptive shutdown of North Atlantic and European airspace in aviation history. Given the high level of activity of Iceland’s more than two dozen active volcanoes, how often are such events to be expected? A new study comparing volcanic ash records over the last 1,000 years suggests that fallout over Europe may be more common than previously anticipated.

17 May 2017

Grapes reveal impacts of sulfur-rich Samalas eruption on 13th-century climate

The A.D. 1257 eruption of the Indonesian volcano Samalas sent an ash plume an estimated 43 kilometers into the sky in one of the most sulfur-rich eruptions of the last 7,000 years. A new study using tree rings, ice cores and historical records investigates how this colossal eruption impacted climate across the Northern Hemisphere, finding that the eruption triggered severe cold in some regions, while other areas were less affected. The pattern could be explained by the behavior of sulfate particles in the atmosphere, researchers suggest.

28 Apr 2017

Of airplanes and ash clouds: What we've learned since Eyjafjallajökull

The havoc created when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano erupted in 2010 and closed trans-Atlantic and northern European airspace for days also created research opportunities. Scientists, engineers and the airline industry have been working together to figure out how to keep the aviation system going when volcanic ash can’t be avoided.
02 Apr 2017

Warning: Ash Ahead!

One of the next-generation tactics being pursued by engineers is the use of ash-sensing equipment installed on airplanes that could warn of an ash cloud ahead and allow pilots time to adjust their flight path to avoid the cloud. “If you’re driving a car and you see a hazard up ahead, you can navigate around it,” says Fred Prata of the University of Oxford in England. “Every aircraft has radar equipment with which [pilots] can see weather systems and fly around them. This is the same concept, but adapted to image volcanic ash.”

02 Apr 2017

Ash vs. airplanes

Between 1953 and 2009,* there were 129 reported incidents of airplane-ash encounters, with 79 of those causing some degree of airframe or engine damage. Twenty-six involved significant or severe damage, and nine involved some degree of engine shutdown during flight. Most of the encounters occurred within 24 hours of the onset of ash production during an eruption and within 1,000 kilometers of the source volcano. All flights landed safely.

02 Apr 2017

Pyroclastic flows, not caldera collapse, caused Santorini tsunamis

The 1650 B.C. eruption of the Greek island volcano Santorini, located in the Aegean Sea, triggered tsunamis that heavily damaged coastal towns and disrupted vital shipping and trade operations, events thought to be important factors in the demise of the ancient Minoan culture.

17 Mar 2017

To cool the planet, volcanoes of the future will need more firepower

Explosive volcanic eruptions can spew sulfur gas into the stratosphere — the layer of the atmosphere above where most clouds and weather occur — where it forms sulfate aerosols that reflect sunlight back into space and cool the planet. Now, researchers investigating how volcanic plumes could be affected by projected anthropogenic warming have found that, as temperatures rise, it becomes more difficult for volcanic plumes to reach the stratosphere.

06 Mar 2017