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«RICHARD B. STOTHERS Institute for Space Studies, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, U.S.A. Abstract. Somewhere in ...»

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The Pinatubo, Philippines (June 1991) eruption caused a slight immediate global cooling, followed by a winter warming and then an abnormally cool remainder of the year 1992 (Hansen et al., 1996; Kelly et al., 1996). Surprisingly, Santa Maria, Guatemala (October 1902) seems not to have had as large a climatic impact as Pinatubo, from the evidence of both instrumental (Angell and Korshover, 1985; Mass and Portman, 1989; Robock and Mao, 1995; Kelly et al., 1996) and dendrochronologically inferred (Briffa et al., 1998) surface air temperatures. Yet this was a major aerosol-producing eruption comparable in size to Pinatubo (Stothers, 1996b). On the other hand, the consequences of the larger Krakatau, Indonesia (August 1883) eruption did follow the standard Pinatubo pattern. Nothing is yet known of any prompt climatic impact from the eruption of Huaynaputina, Peru (February 1600), but northern tree rings suggest that the summer of 1600 was relatively mild (Briffa et al., 1998; de Silva and Zielinski, 1998), perhaps because a strong El Niño occurred that year (Quinn, cited by Ortlieb and Macharé, 1993);

the following summer, however, was exceptionally cold.

The only other large eruption known not to have been followed by a prompt apparent cooling is the massive Icelandic Laki eruption (June–August 1783). Its extratropical location is probably irrelevant, because the much smaller Katmai, Alaska (June 1912) eruption was immediately followed by noticeable cooling (Mass and Portman, 1989; Robock and Mao, 1995; Briffa et al., 1998). Although the summer of 1783 in Iceland was remarkably cold under the thick volcanic ash clouds (Stothers, 1996a) and low temperatures possibly occurred as well in some far northerly parts of North America (Briffa et al., 1994), an unusual warmth prevailed otherwise at northern mid-latitudes (Wood, 1992). The unknown moderating factor may have been the strong El Niño of 1782–1783 (Quinn, cited by Ortlieb and Macharé, 1993). This illustrates, again, the potentially important effect of an El Niño event and the need to treat each volcanic eruption on an individual basis.

In summary, the present climatological study of the great 1258 eruption, taken in conjunction with published studies of other large tropical eruptions, confirms the tentative findings that have been previously deduced statistically for mostly smalRICHARD B. STOTHERS ler, modern tropical eruptions. Although natural climate variability (especially El Niño warming) tends to dilute the volcanic signal, a large enough eruption is able to poke through the background noise, producing discernible effects in a climatically sensitive region like Europe. The particular season in which the eruption occurred seems now not to be as important as has been sometimes suspected. If left undisturbed, the normal sequence of events consists of a prompt global surface cooling, a mild following winter on the continents, and a cold remainder of the year. One or more additional cold years may ensue. There can also be adverse agricultural and epidemiological consequences due to the climatic disruption (Stothers, 1999).

Events after the 1258 eruption were therefore typical for large tropical eruptions.

The NASA Climate Research Program provided general support for this project. Libraries supplying the older research materials were the Butler Library of Columbia University and the New York Public Library.


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