Volcanoes and their effect on global climate


“Volcanoes produce a wide variety of hazards that can kill people and destroy property. Large explosive eruptions can endanger people and property hundreds of miles away and even affect global climate.” –The United States Geological Survey

A volcanic eruption is both an international pollutant source and an international hazard. Large explosive eruptions can endanger people and property hundreds of miles away and even affect global climate”. During a volcanic eruption a mixture of gases and particulates are expelled. The discharge of gases can also occur between major eruption events; volatile gases such as hydrogen fluorine(HF) and carbon monoxide(CO) trickle out of cracks and fissure along the surface of the volcano (SDSU, 2000).

Second to water vapor, carbon dioxide is the next leading contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases. The massive output of anthropogenic carbon dioxide is an international pollution issue that has been extensively addressed; since the rapid escalation of carbon dioxide to its current atmospheric concentration of 395 ppm, the United Nations and other international assemblies have had the anthropogenically sourced carbon dioxide in the center of their concern (IVHHN,2014). While the carbon dioxide expelled from human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, is a major contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases, it is not the only source of carbon dioxide. Volcanism also expels carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global greenhouse gas levels. Volcanoes release up to 130 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year (USGS, 2010). It is averaged out that volcanism, per year, contributes anywhere between 65-319 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (EIA, 2011). One volcanic eruption has the opportunity to outgas as much carbon dioxide in one day than 250 years of anthropogenic activity (Primer, 2010).

When volcanic ash clouds move over bodies of water, hydrogen fluoride can be precipitated out of the cloud and into the water; the body of water then becomes contaminated with toxic levels of hydrogen fluoride. Reservoirs and ground water, in which human populations utilize, are contaminated by hydrogen fluoride; polluted water has the opportunity to effect a wide regions (D’Alessandro, 2006). Consuming water contaminated by hydrogen fluoride results in dental fluorosis which results in discolored and blackened teeth; bone and joint deformation from skeletal fluorosis is also seen in humans who consume contaminated water, vegetables, or livestock (D’ Alessando, 2006). Volcanic eruptions in Iceland outgas high concentration of hydrogen fluoride which resulted in the deaths of large sheep populations (D’ Alessandro, 2006).

International Pollution Issues   Sara George, author. City University of New York, 2014