Krakatoa it Ain't: Mt Redoubt Enviro Effect Likely Small

redoubt explosion image
Redoubt taken last week before the full eruption USGS

Krakatoa it ain't, but volcanic eruptions are often spectacular displays of the power of nature. Alaska's Mt. Redoubt is putting on a show and has been upgraded to Code Red, with a cloud now up to 50,000 feet. It doesn't look like it should cause a lot of damage- according to Discovery News,

Dave Stricklan, a hydrometeorogical technician with the National Weather Service, expected very fine ash. "Just kind of a light dusting," he said. He said the significant amount of ash probably dropped immediately, right down the side of the volcano.
redoubt ash plume image
National weather service doppler radar

Judging from his comments, it is not likely that the eruption of Mount Redoubt will cause the kinds of climate problems of past, much bigger eruptions, such as:

1815: Mt. Tambora

Turner.jpg JMW Turner, Chichester Canal- great sunsets were a feature of big volcanic eruptions

The eruption of Mount Tambora caused 1816's "Year Without Summer"- causing crop failures in Northern Europe, the Northeastern United States and Canada. Rivers stayed frozen as far south as Pennsylvania. New York Harbour froze so solid that you could take a sleigh to Governor's Island.

1991: Mt. Pinatubo


The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo was felt around the world.

The effects of the eruption were felt worldwide. It ejected roughly 10 billion metric tonnes (10 cubic kilometres) of magma, and 20 million tons of SO2, bringing vast quantities of minerals and metals to the surface environment. It injected large amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere—more than any eruption since that of Krakatoa in 1883. Over the following months, the aerosols formed a global layer of sulfuric acid haze. Global temperatures dropped by about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F), and ozone depletion temporarily increased substantially.

source: Wikipedia

1883: Krakatoa

krakatoa discovery network image

When Krakatoa blew in 1883, it ejected twice as much, over 21 cubic kilometers. However it did far more damage as it went up in a single big bang. The Discovery Channel describes it:

On August 27, 1883 the most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history took place on the Krakatoa Islands. Located between Java and Sumatra, the islands themselves owed their existence to a massive eruption early in the 5th century AD. In the wake of the 1883 eruption over 36,000 lay dead and the entire island detonated with a force unknown in the pre-atomic age. Krakatoa, which stood some 6000 feet above sea level on August 26th, had simply ceased to exist twenty-four hours later. Some three-quarters of the island had been blasted away or sank beneath the ocean into the crater where the volcano once stood. The eruption bundled together a catalogue of individual disasters: massive explosions, earthquakes, toxic clouds of superheated ash and gasses, and a tsunami whose 140 foot waves decimated 165 villages in the region. A ship in a nearby bay was lifted by the ensuing tidal wave and deposited two miles inland. A volcanic hail of stones rained from the sky while shrouds of ash turned the daytime sky pitch black.

1453: Kuwae

constantinople fall image

The political effects of climate chaos cannot be discounted. The eruption of Kuwae in 1453 is estimated to have launched as much at 39 cubic kilometers, one of the largest eruptions in the last ten thousand years. Constantinople was under attack by the Ottomans and had some heavenly help.

On the night of May 22, 1453, the moon, symbol of Constantinople, rose in dark eclipse, fulfilling a prophecy of the city's demise. Four days later, the whole city was blotted out by a thick fog, a condition unknown in that part of the world in May. When the fog lifted that evening, "flames engulfed the dome of the Hagia Sophia, and lights, too, could be seen from the walls, glimmering in the distant countryside far behind the Turkish camp (to the west)," historians noted. Residents of the city thought the strange light was due to reflection from a fire set by the Turkish attackers. Kevin Pang of the Jet Propulsion Lab said, however, such a "fire" was an optical illusion due to the reflection of intensely red twilight glow by clouds of volcanic ash high in the atmosphere.

70,000 BC: Mt. Toba


Professor Stanley H. Ambrose, Department of Anthropology, University Of Illinois, Urbana, USA suggests that the explosion of Mt. Toba almost completely wiped out humanity, reducing the entire population to about 10,000 people. Ash layers in India have been found that are up to 18 feet thick.

Genetic evidence suggests that Human population size fell to about 10,000 adults between 50 and 100 thousand years ago. The survivors from this global catastrophy would have found refuge in isolated tropical pockets, mainly in Equatorial Africa. Populations living in Europe and northern China would have been completely eliminated by the reduction of the summer temperatures by as much as 12 degrees centigrade.

More in Late Pleistocene human population bottlenecks, volcanic winter, and differentiation of modern humans
More hot volcanic action:
Japan's Mt Asama Erupts, Sends Ash Over Tokyo
"Supervolcano" Pushing Yellowstone Ever Upwards
Alaskan Volcanoes to be Surveyed, Tapped for Geothermal Power
Alaskan Volcanoes to be Surveyed, Tapped for Geothermal Power
5 Ways Geothermal Power is Heating Up Around the World

Tags: Alaska | Alternative Energy


treehugger slideshows