Massive Antarctic volcanic eruptions linked to abrupt Southern hemisphere climate changes

September 4, 2017
A 15-meter pan-sharpened Landsat 8 image of the Mount Takahe volcano rising more than 2,000 meters (1.2 miles) above the surrounding West Antarctic ice sheet in Marie Byrd Land, West Antarctica. Credit: Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA). USGS and NASA, LIMA Viewer

New findings published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) by Desert Research Institute (DRI) Professor Joseph R. McConnell, Ph.D., and colleagues document a 192-year series of volcanic eruptions in Antarctica that coincided with accelerated deglaciation about 17,700 years ago.

"Detailed chemical measurements in Antarctic ice cores show that massive, halogen-rich eruptions from the West Antarctic Mt. Takahe volcano coincided exactly with the onset of the most rapid, widespread climate change in the Southern Hemisphere during the end of the last ice age and the start of increasing global greenhouse gas concentrations," according to McConnell, who leads DRI's ultra-trace chemical ice core analytical laboratory.

Climate changes that began ~17,700 years ago included a sudden poleward shift in westerly winds encircling Antarctica with corresponding changes in sea ice extent, ocean circulation, and ventilation of the deep ocean. Evidence of these changes is found in many parts of the Southern Hemisphere and in different paleoclimate archives, but what prompted these changes has remained largely unexplained.

"We know that rapid climate change at this time was primed by changes in solar insolation and the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets," explained McConnell. "Glacial and interglacial cycles are driven by the sun and Earth orbital parameters that impact solar insolation (intensity of the sun's rays) as well as by changes in the continental ice sheets and ."

"We postulate that these halogen-rich eruptions created a stratospheric ozone hole over Antarctica that, analogous to the modern ozone hole, led to large-scale changes in atmospheric circulation and hydroclimate throughout the Southern Hemisphere," he added. "Although the climate system already was primed for the switch, we argue that these changes initiated the shift from a largely glacial to a largely interglacial climate state. The probability that this was just a coincidence is negligible."

Furthermore, the fallout from these eruptions - containing elevated levels of hydrofluoric acid and toxic heavy metals - extended at least 2,800 kilometers from Mt. Takahe and likely reached southern South America.

How Were These Massive Antarctic Volcanic Eruptions Discovered and Verified?

McConnell's ice core laboratory enables high-resolution measurements of ice cores extracted from remote regions of the Earth, such as Greenland and Antarctica. One such ice core, known as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS Divide) core was drilled to a depth of more than two miles (3,405 meters), and much of it was analyzed in the DRI Ultra-Trace Laboratory for more than 30 different elements and chemical species.

Monica Arienzo, Ph.D., an assistant research professor of hydrology at DRI, loads an 18,000-year-old sample of the WAIS Divide ice core for continuous chemical analysis using DRI's ultra-trace ice core analytical system in Reno, Nev. Credit: DRI Professor Joseph R. McConnell, Ph.D.

Additional analyses and modeling studies critical to support the authors' findings were made by collaborating institutions around the U.S. and world.

"These precise, high-resolution records illustrate that the chemical anomaly observed in the WAIS Divide ice core was the result of a series of eruptions of Mt. Takahe located 350 kilometers to the north," explained Monica Arienzo, Ph.D., an assistant research professor of hydrology at DRI who runs the mass spectrometers that enable measurement of these elements to as low as parts per quadrillion (the equivalent of 1 gram in 1,000,000,000,000,000 grams).

"No other such long-lasting record was found in the 68,000-year WAIS Divide record," notes Michael Sigl, Ph.D., who first observed the anomaly during chemical analysis of the core. "Imagine the environmental, societal, and economic impacts if a series of modern explosive eruptions persisted for four or five generations in the lower latitudes or in the Northern Hemisphere where most of us live!"

Discovery of this unique event in the WAIS Divide record was not the first indication of a chemical anomaly occurring ~17,700 years ago.

"The anomaly was detected in much more limited measurements of the Byrd ice core in the 1990s," notes McConnell, "but exactly what it was or what created it wasn't clear. Most previous Antarctic ice core records have not included many of the elements and chemical species that we study, such as heavy metals and rare earth elements, that characterize the anomaly - so in many ways these other studies were blind to the Mt. Takahe event."

DRI's initial findings were confirmed by analysis of replicate samples from WAIS Divide, producing nearly identical results.

"We also found the chemical anomaly in ice from two other Antarctic ice cores including archived samples from the Byrd Core available from the University of Copenhagen and ice from Taylor Glacier in the Antarctic Dry Valleys," said Nathan Chellman, a graduate student working in McConnell's laboratory.

Extraction of the WAIS-Divide ice core and analysis in DRI's laboratory were funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

"The WAIS Divide allows us to identify each of the past 30,000 years of snowfall in individual layers of ice, thus enabling detailed examination of conditions during deglaciation," said Paul Cutler, NSF Polar Programs' glaciology program manager. "The value of the WAIS Divide as a high-resolution climate record is clear in these latest results and is another reward for the eight-year effort to obtain it."

Explore further: Rewriting the history of volcanic forcing during the past 2,000 years

More information: Joseph R. McConnell el al., "Synchronous volcanic eruptions and abrupt climate change ∼17.7 ka plausibly linked by stratospheric ozone depletion," PNAS (2017). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1705595114

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23 comments

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tblakely1357
1.8 / 5 (21) Sep 04, 2017
Wait, I was assured that rapid climate changed only occurred due to human meddling.
Shootist
1.3 / 5 (16) Sep 04, 2017
More climate change from one medium sized erutpting volcano that from all of mankind's activities in a year.

https://ombreoliv...-denial/

"Just about every mathematically literate person who has dug into the research thinks it is iffy as hell (with the notable exception of the BEST project that is being run by a physicist) and anyone who looks at the smug hypocrisy of most green campaigners quickly realizes they're in it mostly for the bansturbation"
barakn
4.5 / 5 (17) Sep 04, 2017
An easy physorg rule of thumb to remember - if shootist wrote it, it's wrong. https://www.skept...ming.htm
leetennant
4.6 / 5 (19) Sep 04, 2017
Wait, I was assured that rapid climate changed only occurred due to human meddling.


Really? Where was it? Show me your source?

More climate change from one medium sized erutpting volcano that from all of mankind's activities in a year.

https://ombreoliv...-denial/


Volcanos constitute 1% of human emissions.

Personally, I completely love this denier argument. By arguing that volcano emissions can cause warming, deniers are actually accepting that CO2 increases are linked to rising temperatures. Once you realise that volcanic emissions are only 1% of human emissions, it's clear this argument is actually FOR AGW. So, thanks Shootist for agreeing that human-induced climate change is happening due to emissions. It's progress!
Old_C_Code
1.5 / 5 (16) Sep 04, 2017
"accepting that CO2 increases are linked to rising temperatures"

But this just isn't true, CO2 has risen 30% the past 100 years, temp hasn't thankfully.
altrobert
4.4 / 5 (13) Sep 04, 2017
One cannot deny that automobiles have become more efficient over the past 17,700 years
leetennant
4.5 / 5 (17) Sep 04, 2017
"accepting that CO2 increases are linked to rising temperatures"

But this just isn't true, CO2 has risen 30% the past 100 years, temp hasn't thankfully.


Global temperature increases

NOAA
https://www.ncdc....l/201613

I can't wait for you to come back with that always-compelling "No it's not because they're LYING!" argument. That's super compelling especially with little to no evidence. Rejecting all the data because it disagrees with your preconceived ideas is not skepticism, it's anti-rationality.

Global averages temperatures have increased just over 1 degree since 1880. That is a fact.

And, yes, if you claim that volcanic emissions of CO2 can cause warming then you're accepted the physics behind AGW. Increase in CO2 = increase in temperature. You can't argue volcanos increase warming but CO2 doesn't. It's a contradiction.
Parsec
3.6 / 5 (9) Sep 05, 2017
Wait, I was assured that rapid climate changed only occurred due to human meddling.


Whoever assured you of that was an idiot. And only an idiot would believe it.
HeloMenelo
4.4 / 5 (13) Sep 05, 2017
Wait, I was assured that rapid climate changed only occurred due to human meddling.

But wait YOU, an old time antigoracle/waterprophet sockpuppet, was assured only one thing on this site, and that is bananas for your ever so dumb,sensless,idiotic comments, do you still attend those dumbing down classes ? or have you reached the rock bottom of dumbness.
HeloMenelo
4.3 / 5 (11) Sep 05, 2017
One cannot deny that automobiles have become more efficient over the past 17,700 years

Agreed, Electric cars is the future and polluting,messy,maintenence prone ICE stove stokers the past.
HeloMenelo
4.4 / 5 (13) Sep 05, 2017
More climate change from one medium sized erutpting volcano that from all of mankind's activities in a year.

https://ombreoliv...-denial/

"Just about every mathematically literate person who has dug into the research thinks it is iffy as hell (with the notable exception of the BEST project that is being run by a physicist) and anyone who looks at the smug hypocrisy of most green campaigners quickly realizes they're in it mostly for the bansturbation"

The problem is that this illiterate goon aka antigorcale/shootist sockpuppet scratches his head everytime he looks at the overwhelming evidence for human induced climate change, the only thing that he can revert to so he feels normal again is have another banana, and thumping his chest here on this site, which makes for hilarious comedy, everytime ;)
rrrander
1.8 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2017
Just more proof that natural, radical changes in climate are a normal event and that just because the kooks want to blame a supposed event (temps rising now) on man doesn't make it so.
leetennant
4.2 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2017
Just more proof that natural, radical changes in climate are a normal event and that just because the kooks want to blame a supposed event (temps rising now) on man doesn't make it so.


My grandparents all died of cancer they didn't get from smoking. This is proof that lung cancer can't be caused by smoking.

That logic is airtight, right?
HeloMenelo
4.1 / 5 (9) Sep 05, 2017
Just more proof that natural, radical changes in climate are a normal event and that just because the kooks want to blame a supposed event (temps rising now) on man doesn't make it so.

Just more proof of an antigoracle sockpuppet thumping his chest not having a clue as to what climate change is and even less capacity to understand decades of scientific evidence.
unrealone1
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2017
Volcanoes drive CO2 .
Volcanoes erupt more CO2 in the atmosphere .
Volcanoes stop erupting CO2 reduces.
Wow it all makes sense now.
HeloMenelo
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 05, 2017
You left out on critical factor that can tip the scales to catasrophe and sooner rather than later (like you usually do)
Human induced warming but then again numbty here can't put up any evidence worthy of reading disputing what has been proven infinately over decades wrt Human Induced Climate change ;)
leetennant
4 / 5 (4) Sep 05, 2017
Volcanoes drive CO2 .
Volcanoes erupt more CO2 in the atmosphere .
Volcanoes stop erupting CO2 reduces.
Wow it all makes sense now.


Volcanos emit approximately 1% of human emissions according to the USGS.

Volcanos can only have short term regional impacts on climate, even with a massive eruption like this one. If you actually read this piece, their speculation is that the eruption coincided with other external factors and was still only regional.

You did read it, didn't you?
RealityCheck
3 / 5 (4) Sep 05, 2017
@tblakely1357, @Shootist and @rrrander,

In the context of Earth's natural 'glaciation-deglaciation' processes and effects 'timelines', the terms "rapid", "abrupt" and "radical" are RELATIVE, and don't mean the same when that context changes to short-term human activity/effects 'timelines'. In case you missed this point/context:
"The WAIS Divide ice core allows us to identify each of the past 30,000 years of snowfall in individual layers of ice, thus enabling detailed examination of conditions during deglaciation,"
Note that the STARTING 'trigger' ALSO involved a CONFLUENCE of consequent/concurrent events/processes involving Ozone layer depletion and changes to albedo/insolation etc....and Natural warming/deglaciation was over a period of 30, 000 years!

Whereas WE, due to CO2-increases-related changes, NOW EXACERBATING the previously tolerable/safer warmer conditions and DESTABILIZING previously 'settled' wind/ocean/temp GLOBAL 'climate patterns' over mere DECADES!
RealityCheck
2 / 5 (4) Sep 05, 2017
@Old_C_Code.

From @leetennant:
accepting that CO2 increases are linked to rising temperatures

From @Old_C_Cde:
But this just isn't true, CO2 has risen 30% the past 100 years, temp hasn't thankfully.
I don't believe that @leetennant meant to suggest a linear relationship in the Earth's complex dynamical climate system, mate. :)

If you think about it, there has been so much of the additional heat/energy increase going to warm Ocean waters and being absorbed by land masses and dissociation/melting of methane and CO2 clathrates etc, that the 30% increase in CO2 has yet to fully work its way through the system to the point where most transitional 'heat sink' reservoirs/processes have 'exhausted' their 'buffering potential'. THAT's when the shite will really hit the fan if runaway warming starts in earnest; and current back-to-back climate disaster 'events' will seem 'tame and benign' by comparison! Good luck to us all, whatever AGW brings. Take care, mate. :)
leetennant
5 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2017
don't believe that @leetennant meant to suggest a linear relationship in the Earth's complex dynamical climate system, mate. :)

If you think about it, there has been so much of the additional heat/energy increase going to warm Ocean waters and being absorbed by land masses and dissociation/melting of methane and CO2 clathrates etc, that the 30% increase in CO2 has yet to fully work its way through the system to the point where most transitional 'heat sink' reservoirs/processes have 'exhausted' their 'buffering potential'.


Of course warming isn't just about surface temps. Heat sinks have been buffering air temps but ocean temps etc still rising. So the energy is still in the system. When it comes down to it, this insistence on air temps is just another kind of cherry picking. It's about the energy that's in the system as a whole. See this in ice melt and weather anomalies.

But even if you insist on air temps only, they've increased. So his statement is doubly wrong.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2017
Then there's latent heat of unfreezing and evaporation, which don't show up as temperature. Ice doesn't become water, and water doesn't become water vapor, by magic without any energy input.

#climatecrankscantcount.
gordonhervey1
1 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2017
"Glacial and interglacial cycles are driven by the....sun and earth orbital parameters." I'd suggest that earth science shouldn't be ignored, geomagnetic excursions and reversals indicate that change occurred at the earth's core levels and this manifests in effects that include heat flux in the polar regions and new volcanoes. Eruptions under the ice and explosions due to the steam pressure likely occurred in West Antarctica 23000 and 46000 years ago causing catastrophic disintegration of the WAIS, and the distribution of ice into the oceans affected climate. It's possible the volcano that formed under the WAIS in 2010/11 will do the same within 20 years, meaning that global warming may be negated by about a 3C fall and a disastrous shift into the Anthropocene. http://adsabs.har...11B4717I]http://adsabs.har...11B4717I[/url] http://adsabs.har...11B4717I]http://adsabs.har...11B4717I[/url]
gordonhervey1
1 / 5 (2) Sep 07, 2017

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