Illustration 3D d'une éruption volcanique

An ancient series of volcanic eruptions revealed by old ice

Various studies in glaciology provided a lot of information on the formation of ice and some natural phenomena. Recently, a study of ice samples taken from Greenland and Antarctica revealed that gigantic volcanic eruptions occurred during the last ice age. These volcanic explosions would even have caused droughts, tsunamis, famines and deaths.

In fact, this research was conducted by physicists from the University of Copenhagen. Volcanoes that have erupted, these have listed some 69 which were of a magnitude greater than the volcanic eruptions of the 20and century. According to these researchers, these volcanic explosions could shed light on the Earth’s vulnerability to the global warming.

Furthermore, these physicists carried out a comparison of ice cores collected in Antarctica and Greenland. This reconciliation made it possible to assess the number and intensity of multiple volcanic eruptions that occurred during the last 6 millennia.

Volcanic explosions stronger than that of Tambora

Researchers have identified 85 major volcanic outbursts around the world. But 69 of these are considered more powerful than the Mount Tambora volcano. Known as the largest volcanic explosion on Earth, it took place in Indonesia in 1815. In fact, this eruption expelled into the stratosphere a considerable amount of sulfuric acid which blocked sunlight from entering the earth’s atmosphere.

In addition, the eruption of the Tambora volcano caused a significant planetary cooling over the following years. This phenomenon has also triggered tsunamis, periods of drought and famine, and claimed at least 80,000 lives. To reconstruct old volcanic eruptions, the researchers relied on the study of ice cores since they would have several advantages compared to other techniques.

“When a gigantic volcanic explosion occurs, it ejects sulfuric acid into the upper layers of the atmosphere. This substance is spreading all over the world, especially in Greenland and Antarctica. By observing this amount of sulfuric acid, we estimate the power of an eruption. »

Anders Svensson, Assistant Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen

Future volcanic eruptions on the horizon?

Certainly, scientists have been able to deduce that these 69 major eruptions arose during the prehistoric ice age. But they believe that it is necessary be based on a long period to determine when others will take place. Everyone is tempted to know when the next wave of these massive eruptions will occur. However, researchers did not want to embark on definitive forecasts.

“During our entire study, 3 explosions of category VEI-8 occurred. We expect to see more later, but we have no idea if they will come in a century or millennia. »

Anders Svensson


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