The doomsayers and nibiruists seem to have their own sad little volcanic fashion trends. After their favorite volcano, Yellowstone, was found to be suffering from a serious case of dying they seem to have moved on. I expected them to find a new supervolcano to go on endlessly about. This time they though concocted something unexpected.
The new trend is getting overly excited over the number of small eruptions that is currently ongoing. It started with one of them finding 4 active volcanoes. The next one found seven and one daredevil apparently could count all the way up to 10.
So, what is so dangerous with a few volcanoes having small eruptions? Well, the nibiruistic blogosphere seems to live in places where the weather have been cold lately. So, the going fashion trend is that the sum of small volcanic eruptions put together is causing a new ice age. In the normal hyperbolic fashion they have declared that the beginning of December has been record cold. We are surely doomed, by their ignorance. Let us now take a look at it with a bit more measured eyes.
First of all, how many volcanoes are erupting currently? Well, I spent my weekend chasing actively erupting volcanoes on a scale I have never done before. I came up with 37 erupting volcanoes. This list is probably wrong since some volcanoes most likely have quit erupting, and a few new have started. I found 19 constant erupters like Santiaguito, Sakurajima and Stromboli, 13 frequent erupters like Etna and 7 other less frequent erupting volcanoes like Jebel al-Zubair and Nishinoshima.
The observant reader probably finds a pattern here. It seems like we are mostly talking about volcanoes that have erupted for years, decades, or even thousands of years. I am not going to make a statistical record of how many volcanoes have been erupting at the same time down the ages, but I bet the number have been roughly the same for at least the last couple of thousand years.
Pinatubo and Grimsvötn
Okay, but let us now look into the current eruptions going on. After all, not all eruptions are equal. We know that a large enough explosive eruption will have an impact on the climate. After all, we know that the 1991 VEI-6 eruption of Pinatubo caused a small dip in the global average temperature during the same year. Pinatubo is the smallest known eruption to have had a proven effect on the global average temperature. So, a number of smaller eruptions should have the same effect shouldn’t it?
This supposition though contains two faults. First one is a lack of knowledge about how the VEI-scale works. A VEI-6 eruption equates to 10 cubic kilometers of dense rock being blasted into the air. A VEI-5 is one tenth of that, and so on down to the VEI-1 eruption blasting out 0,00001 cubic kilometers of dense rock. The last known VEI-4 eruption was Grimsvötn in 2011, it was roughly 1/50th the size of Pinatubo and it did nothing to the global climate. Same goes for the slightly more famous 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull that was an even smaller VEI-4 eruption compared to Grimsvötn.
For those who sat in front of their computers and watched the awesome power of the Grimsvötn eruption or Eyjafjallajökull it is sobering to think that It would take more than 50 of them going at the same time to come up to the size of Pinatubo. But, hey we have 37 eruptions, that should have an effect shouldn’t it?
Still not getting the VEI-scale. The eruptions going on right now are small compared to Grimsvötn. On average I would guess each of them reach a VEI-2 at best. Put together that does not even give a VEI-4. And we know that VEI-4s do not create any effect on the climate.
I mentioned that there was one thing more that the doomsayers does not understand with the VEI-scale, and that is that the height of the ash column is a factor. First of all, we know from measurements that the Eruption column from Pinatubo was 34km and that Grimsvötn peaked at 15km. Now, a VEI-2 peaks in the 1 – 5 km range and a VEI-3 is in the 3 – 15 km range. Of course, time is also a factor, so a 3 km ash column over a long time can slowly build from a VEI-2 into a VEI-3 eruption.
Why now is the column interesting? Well, to affect global weather the ash have to get really high up into the atmosphere. General theory here seems to be that you need to have ash injected at a height above a minimum of 30 kilometers to affect global weather. Otherwise the ash will only have a regional effect. And, remember that all Pinatubo did was lowering the average global temperature with 0.5C for the year of 1991, which is actually within the normal fluctuation range. Anyhow, not even 100 VEI-2 eruptions would affect global weather.
Duh, you forget the effect of the gasses! No, I did not, the gasses are actually scaled pretty perfectly along with the VEI-scale. So forget gasses being a factor.
Every fact points towards our current age being one of the least volcanically active. Still we have continuous volcanic activity all over the globe, but it is just the few very large ones that have an effect on the global climate. And as recent studies done at Lake Turkana in Kenya shows we now know that even the largest eruption in the last 2.2 million years (Toba) did not have as massive effect on the climate or human survival as previously believed.
In the real world volcanoes are increasingly proving to be really bad at changing the global weather. At least the type of volcanism we see in our current geological age. Even a Toba event has one serious drawback when it comes to affecting the global weather, the ash will fall down comparatively quickly, and as the new figures from Lake Turkana tells us, that falling down is happening much faster than previously believed for the ultra-large events.
Regarding the global temperatures, the latest figures are for October and they show that October was the 244th consecutive month with a temperature above the average of the twentieth century. Nothing points towards December being an exception, but I will wait for the figures to be released in February before saying that it is so, even though my local weather has been pretty average.
Next week I will either blow up Verneshots or Stephen Baxter and his ridiculously unscientific novel “Flood”. Which one depends on my mood and what my readers prefer to have blown up. One thing is sure, I will go VEI-8 on one of them!