The Wide-Ranging Effects of Volcanic Ash
An erupting volcano emits gases and insoluble particles known as volcanic ash. The effects of gaseous volcanic emissions on the Earth’s weather, climate, and biogeochemistry have been studied extensively. Climate models usually take those effects into account. The effects of volcanic ash, however, are not well characterized. Volcanic ash disturbs local and regional weather patterns, lowers air quality, and may trigger changes in ocean chemistry and marine ecosystems. Yet climate and other earth system models do not account for the ramifications of volcanic ash.
Using new satellite data, Natalie M. Mahowald, Matthew E. Pritchard, and Esteban Gazel, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, are investigating current and future effects of volcanic ash and incorporating those effects into an Earth system model. The research will combine remote sensing with in situ chemistry and spectroscopic measurements of volcanic eruptions to generate a range of forecasts related to volcanic emissions. Among other goals, the researchers are examining historical records to determine whether a volcano’s pre-eruptive activity can be correlated with the volume, chemical composition, plume height, and other consequential characteristics of an eruption.
This project aims to better anticipate major volcanic eruptions and their repercussions. Researchers will consider the short- and long-term effects of volcanic ash emissions on air quality, aviation, weather, and climate. This research will produce a database of volcanic ash emissions as well as model simulations and codes that will contribute to more accurate models of Earth systems.