Nav: Home

Increase in volcanic eruptions at the end of the ice age caused by melting ice caps and erosion

February 01, 2016

The combination of erosion and melting ice caps led to a massive increase in volcanic activity at the end of the last ice age, according to new research. As the climate warmed, the ice caps melted, decreasing the pressure on the Earth's mantle, leading to an increase in both magma production and volcanic eruptions. The researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, have found that erosion also played a major role in the process, and may have contributed to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

"It's been established that melting ice caps and volcanic activity are linked - but what we've found is that erosion also plays a key role in the cycle," said Dr Pietro Sternai of Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences, the paper's lead author, who is also a member of Caltech's Division of Geological and Planetary Science. "Previous attempts to model the huge increase in atmospheric CO2 at the end of the last ice age failed to account for the role of erosion, meaning that CO2 levels may have been seriously underestimated."

Using numerical simulations, which modelled various different features such as ice caps and glacial erosion rates, Sternai and his colleagues from the University of Geneva and ETH Zurich found that erosion is just as important as melting ice in driving the increase in magma production and subsequent volcanic activity. The results are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Although the researchers caution not to draw too strong a link between anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change and increased volcanic activity as the timescales are very different, since we now live in a period where the ice caps are being melted by climate change, they say that the same mechanism will likely work at shorter timescales as well.

Over the past million years, the Earth has gone back and forth between ice ages, or glacial periods, and interglacial periods, with each period lasting for roughly 100,000 years. During the interglacial periods, such as the one we live in today, volcanic activity is much higher, as the lack of pressure provided by the ice caps means that volcanoes are freer to erupt. But in the transition from an ice age to an interglacial period, the rates of erosion also increase, especially in mountain ranges where volcanoes tend to cluster.

Glaciers are considered to be the most erosive force on Earth, and as they melt, the ground beneath is eroded by as much as ten centimetres per year, further decreasing the pressure on the volcano and increasing the likelihood of an eruption. A decrease in pressure enhances the production of magma at depth, since rocks held at lower pressure tend to melt at lower temperatures.

When volcanoes erupt, they release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a cycle that speeds up the warming process. Previous models that attempted to explain the increase in atmospheric CO2 during the end of the last ice age accounted for the role of deglaciation in increasing volcanic activity, but did not account for erosion, meaning that CO2 levels may have been significantly underestimated.

A typical ice age lasting 100,000 years can be characterised into periods of advancing and retreating ice - the ice grows for 80,000 years, but it only takes 20,000 years for that ice to melt.

"There are several factors that contribute to climate warming and cooling trends, and many of them are related to the Earth's orbital parameters," said Sternai. "But we know that much faster warming that cooling can't be caused solely by changes in the Earth's orbit - it must be, at least to some extent, related to something within the Earth system itself. Erosion, by contributing to unload the Earth's surface and enhance volcanic CO2 emissions, may be the missing factor required to explain such persistent climate asymmetry."
-end-


University of Cambridge

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change (The Politically Incorrect Guides)
by Marc Morano (Author)

Less freedom. More regulation. Higher costs. Make no mistake: those are the surefire consequences of the modern global warming campaign waged by political and cultural elites, who have long ago abandoned fact-based science for dramatic fearmongering in order to push increased central planning. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change gives a voice -- backed by statistics, real-life stories, and incontrovertible evidence -- to the millions of "deplorable" Americans skeptical about the multibillion dollar "climate change" complex, whose claims have time and time again been... View Details


Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know®
by Joseph Romm (Author)

Climate change will have a bigger impact on humanity than the Internet has had. The last decade's spate of superstorms, wildfires, heat waves, and droughts has accelerated the public discourse on this topic and lent credence to climatologist Lonnie Thomson's 2010 statement that climate change "represents a clear and present danger to civilization." In June 2015, the Pope declared that action on climate change is a moral issue.

This book offers the most up-to-date examination of climate change's foundational science, its implications for our future, and the core clean energy solutions.... View Details


This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
by Naomi Klein (Author)

The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.

In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.

In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and... View Details


Climate Change: The Facts
by J.Abbot (Author), J.S. Armstrong (Author), A.Bolt (Author), R.Carter (Author), R.Darwall (Author), J.Delingpole (Author), C.Essex (Author), S.Franks (Author), K.Green (Author), D.Laframboise (Author), N.Lawson (Author), B.Lewin (Author), R.Lindzen (Author), J.Marohasy (Author), R.McKitrick (Author), P.Michaels (Author), A.Moran (Author), J.Nova (Author), G.Paltridge (Author), I.Plimer (Author), W.Soon (Author), M.Steyn (Author), A.Watts (Author), Alan Moran (Editor)

Tirelessly promoted by princes, presidents, actors and activists, "climate change" has become a dominant theme of global politics. But what's really going on as the "pause" in global warming prepares to enter its third decade? In this new anthology, leading scientists and commentators from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia consider the climate from every angle - the science, the policy and the politics. View Details


Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know®
by Joseph Romm (Author)

"This is, for my money, the best single-source primer on the state of climate change." - New York Magazine

"The right book at the right time: accessible, comprehensive, unflinching, humane." - The Daily Beast

"A must-read." - The Guardian

The essential primer on what will be the defining issue of our time, Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know® is a clear-eyed overview of the science, conflicts, and implications of our warming planet.

From Joseph Romm, Chief Science... View Details


A Global Warming Primer: Answering Your Questions About The Science, The Consequences, and The Solutions
by Jeffrey Bennett (Author)

Winner:
2017 NSTA, Outstanding Science Trade Books
2017 Children's Book Council, Best STEM Books
Nautilus Book Award, Silver, Ecology and Environment

Is human-induced global warming a real threat to our future? Most people will express an opinion on this question, but relatively few can back their opinions with solid evidence. Many times we’ve even heard pundits say “I am not a scientist” to avoid the issue altogether. But the truth is, the basic science is not that difficult. Using a question and answer format, this book will help readers achieve three major... View Details


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert (Author)

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes

Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists... View Details


Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change
by Mary Beth Pfeiffer (Author)

"Superbly written and researched." Booklist

"Builds a strong case." Kirkus

Lyme disease is spreading rapidly around the globe as ticks move into places they could not survive before. The first epidemic to emerge in the era of climate change, the disease infects half a million people in the US and Europe each year, and untold multitudes in Canada, China, Russia, and Australia.

Mary Beth Pfeiffer shows how we have contributed to this growing menace, and how modern medicine has underestimated its danger. She... View Details


Climate Change: The Facts 2017
by Jennifer Marohasy (Editor)

Climate Change: The Facts 2017 contains 22 essays by internationally-renowned experts and commentators, including Dr Bjorn Lomborg, Dr Matt Ridley, Professor Peter Ridd, Dr Willie Soon, Dr Ian Plimer, Dr Roy Spencer, and literary giant Clive James. The volume is edited by Dr Jennifer Marohasy, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs. Fourteen of the contributors currently hold or have held positions at a university or a scientific research organisation.

Dr Jennifer Marohasy said, "Climate Change: The Facts 2017 presents the case for climate change policies... View Details


The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change
by Robert Henson (Author)

Everybody can be a thinking person when it comes to climate change, and this book is a perfect roadmap.  Start a web search for “climate change” and the first three suggestions are “facts,” “news,” and “hoax.” The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change is rooted in the first, up to date on the second, and anything but the last. Produced by one of the most venerable atmospheric science organizations, it is a must-read for anyone looking for the full story on climate change.

Using global research and written with nonscientists in mind, the Guide... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Inspire To Action
What motivates us to take up a cause, follow a leader, or create change? This hour, TED speakers explore stories of inspirational leadership, and what makes some movements more successful than others. Guests include high school history teacher Diane Wolk-Rogers, writer and behavioral researcher Simon Sinek, 2016 Icelandic presidential candidate Halla Tómasdóttir, professor of leadership Jochen Menges, and writer and activist Naomi Klein.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#474 Appearance Matters
This week we talk about appearance, bodies, and body image. Why does what we look like affect our headspace so much? And how do we even begin to research a topic as personal and subjective as body image? To try and find out, we speak with some of the researchers at the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) at the University of the West of England in Bristol. Psychology Professor Phillippa Diedrichs walks us through body image research, what we know so far, and how we know what we know. Professor of Appearance and Health Psychology Diana Harcourt talks about visible...