Volcanic eruptions contribute to climate variability, but quantifying these contributions has been limited by inconsistencies in the timing of atmospheric volcanic aerosol loading determined from ice cores and subsequent cooling from climate proxies such as tree rings. Here we resolve these inconsistencies and show that large eruptions in the tropics and high latitudes were primary drivers of interannual-to-decadal temperature variability in the Northern Hemisphere during the past 2,500 years. Our results are based on new records of atmospheric aerosol loading developed from high-resolution, multi-parameter measurements from an array of Greenland and Antarctic ice cores as well as distinctive age markers to constrain chronologies. Overall, cooling was proportional to the magnitude of volcanic forcing and persisted for up to ten years after some of the largest eruptive episodes. Our revised timescale more firmly implicates volcanic eruptions as catalysts in the major sixth-century pandemics, famines, and socioeconomic disruptions in Eurasia and Mesoamerica while allowing multi-millennium quantification of climate response to volcanic forcing.
Global climate and the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are correlated over recent glacial cycles. The combination of processes responsible for a rise in atmospheric CO2 at the last glacial termination (23,000 to 9,000 years ago), however, remains uncertain. Establishing the timing and rate of CO2 changes in the past provides critical insight into the mechanisms that influence the carbon cycle and helps put present and future anthropogenic emissions in context. Here we present CO2 and methane (CH4) records of the last deglaciation from a new high-accumulation West Antarctic ice core with unprecedented temporal resolution and precise chronology. We show that although low-frequency CO2 variations parallel changes in Antarctic temperature, abrupt CO2 changes occur that have a clear relationship with abrupt climate changes in the Northern Hemisphere. A significant proportion of the direct radiative forcing associated with the rise in atmospheric CO2 occurred in three sudden steps, each of 10 to 15 parts per million. Every step took place in less than two centuries and was followed by no notable change in atmospheric CO2 for about 1,000 to 1,500 years. Slow, millennial-scale ventilation of Southern Ocean CO2-rich, deep-ocean water masses is thought to have been fundamental to the rise in atmospheric CO2 associated with the glacial termination, given the strong covariance of CO2 levels and Antarctic temperatures. Our data establish a contribution from an abrupt, centennial-scale mode of CO2 variability that is not directly related to Antarctic temperature. We suggest that processes operating on centennial timescales, probably involving the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, seem to be influencing global carbon-cycle dynamics and are at present not widely considered in Earth system models.
Volcanism is a natural climate forcing causing short‐term variations in temperatures. Histories of volcanic eruptions are needed to quantify their role in climate variability and assess human impacts. We present two new seasonally resolved, annually dated non‐sea‐salt sulfur records from polar ice cores—WAIS Divide (WDC06A) from West Antarctica spanning 408 B.C.E. to 2003 C.E. and NEEM (NEEM‐2011‐S1) from Greenland spanning 78 to 1997 C.E.—both analyzed using high‐resolution continuous flow analysis coupled to two mass spectrometers. The high dating accuracy allowed placing the large bi‐hemispheric deposition event ascribed to the eruption of Kuwae in Vanuatu (previously thought to be 1452/1453 C.E. and used as a tie‐point in ice core dating) into the year 1458/1459 C.E. This new age is consistent with an independent ice core timescale from Law Dome and explains an apparent delayed response in tree rings to this volcanic event. A second volcanic event is detected in 1453 C.E. in both ice cores. We show for the first time ice core signals in Greenland and Antarctica from the strong eruption of Taupo in New Zealand in 232 C.E. In total, 133 volcanic events were extracted from WDC06A and 138 from NEEM‐2011‐S1, with 50 ice core signals—predominantly from tropical source volcanoes—identified simultaneously in both records. We assess the effect of large bipolar events on temperature‐sensitive tree ring proxies. These two new volcanic records, synchronized with available ice core records to account for spatial variability in sulfate deposition, provide a basis for improving existing time series of volcanic forcing.
The origin of two large peaks in the atmospheric radiocarbon (14C) concentration at AD 774/5 and 993/4 is still debated. There is consensus, however, that these features can only be explained by an increase in the atmospheric 14C production rate due to an extraterrestrial event. Here we provide evidence that these peaks were most likely produced by extreme solar events, based on several new annually resolved 10Be measurements from both Arctic and Antarctic ice cores. Using ice core 36Cl data in pair with 10Be, we further show that these solar events were characterized by a very hard energy spectrum with high fluxes of solar protons with energy above 100 MeV. These results imply that the larger of the two events (AD 774/5) was at least five times stronger than any instrumentally recorded solar event. Our findings highlight the importance of studying the possibility of severe solar energetic particle events.
Abstract. Desert dust perturbs climate by directly and indirectly interacting with incoming solar and outgoing long wave radiation, thereby changing precipitation and temperature, in addition to modifying ocean and land biogeochemistry. While we know that desert dust is sensitive to perturbations in climate and human land use, previous studies have been unable to determine whether humans were increasing or decreasing desert dust in the global average. Here we present observational estimates of desert dust based on paleodata proxies showing a doubling of desert dust during the 20th century over much, but not all the globe. Large uncertainties remain in estimates of desert dust variability over 20th century due to limited data. Using these observational estimates of desert dust change in combination with ocean, atmosphere and land models, we calculate the net radiative effect of these observed changes (top of atmosphere) over the 20th century to be −0.14 ± 0.11 W/m 2 (1990-1999 vs. 1905-1914). The estimated radiative changeCorrespondence to: N. M. Mahowald (firstname.lastname@example.org) due to dust is especially strong between the heavily loaded 1980-1989 and the less heavily loaded 1955-1964 time periods (−0.57 ± 0.46 W/m 2 ), which model simulations suggest may have reduced the rate of temperature increase between these time periods by 0.11 • C. Model simulations also indicate strong regional shifts in precipitation and temperature from desert dust changes, causing 6 ppm (12 PgC) reduction in model carbon uptake by the terrestrial biosphere over the 20th century. Desert dust carries iron, an important micronutrient for ocean biogeochemistry that can modulate ocean carbon storage; here we show that dust deposition trends increase ocean productivity by an estimated 6% over the 20th century, drawing down an additional 4 ppm (8 PgC) of carbon dioxide into the oceans. Thus, perturbations to desert dust over the 20th century inferred from observations are potentially important for climate and biogeochemistry, and our understanding of these changes and their impacts should continue to be refined.
Satellite radar altimetry measurements indicate that the East Antarctic ice-sheet interior north of 81.6 degrees S increased in mass by 45 +/- 7 billion metric tons per year from 1992 to 2003. Comparisons with contemporaneous meteorological model snowfall estimates suggest that the gain in mass was associated with increased precipitation. A gain of this magnitude is enough to slow sea-level rise by 0.12 +/- 0.02 millimeters per year.
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