EffeCts of lArge voLcanic eruptions on climate and societies: UnDerstand the impacts of past Events and related subsidence cRises to evAluate potential risks in the future
Large explosive volcanic eruptions can inject massive amounts of sulphuric gases into the stratosphere. Sulphate aerosols—produced in the stratosphere by the oxidation of these gases (mainly SO2 and H2S)—can substantially perturb Earth’s radiative balance and lead to a cooling of the troposphere and surface temperatures at timescales of months to years. Volcanically induced cooling was held responsible for crop failures and the subsequent rise in grain prices, and to thereby contribute to subsistence crisis and famines.
The explosive eruption of Tambora in April 1815—the largest event of the last 500 years—yielded strong evidence for a causal links between extreme weather experienced in 1816 in parts of the northern hemisphere (year without summer), poor harvests, a sharp rise in grain prices in Europe and America and the last great subsistence crisis of the Western world. It is often assumed that such consequences are unlikely to occur in modern societies as globalized food trade networks and disaster relief can offer a collective response to modern crises. Yet, one only needs to consider the catalogue of recent famines that have afflicted many parts of Africa, and the slow and often ineffective international response, to find ample evidence that modern societies are in no way immune to potentially catastrophic impacts of major volcanic eruptions.
As no “Tambora-scale” eruption has occurred during the 20th century, we lack experience of potential impacts of high-magnitude eruptions on modern societies. This lack of knowledge—in terms of spatio-temporal climatic impacts and societal abilities to respond to such disasters—calls for in-depth transdisciplinary research.
The key aim of the CALDERA project is to document and reconstruct the spatio-temporal impacts of past major eruptions in unprecedented detail with proxy records and climate models. It also aims at providing state-of-the-art climate projections (i) to quantify impacts of future eruption scenarios on crop yield and global food security (ii) and to assess whether future, major eruptions could mitigate global warming, or instead generate persistent climate instability.
CALDERA will thus substantially improve our knowledge of the impacts of volcanism on temperature and precipitation anomalies by employing (a) recently unearthed historical archives, (b) unprecedented, millennia-long tree-ring datasets (spanning 7000 yrs) of wood-anatomic parameters (c) in combination with a tailored processing of PAGES 2k global datasets. This benchmark data will be used to (d) calibrate microphysical/climate models to more realistically simulate the cooling and hydroclimatic anomalies induced by those 28 eruptions of the last 2000 years being at least as big as the Pinatubo event in 1991. In addition, the project will (e) determine the role of volcanism in the transition from Medieval Climate Anomaly to Little Ice Age climatic regimes, and (f) examine societal impacts and responses to volcanically induced climatic anomalies in these periods using historical archives. The calibrated climate model predictions will then be (g) employed to simulate a suite of future “Tambora-scale” scenarios to provide the climatic input data for statistical crop yield models and to document the effect of volcanic activity on agricultural production, (h) its likely impacts on global food systems and trade, as well as on (i) water and energy (in line with the water-energy-food nexus).
The key strength of CALDERA lies in the systematic, transdisciplinary coupling of approaches and generation of unique, high-resolution datasets to better understand the effects of past, massive volcanism, but also to comprehend and forecast environmental and socio-economic impacts of future volcanic disasters. In addition, the synergetic efforts of the CALDERA consortium will generate breakthrough outcomes which could not be reached by individual teams and within separate disciplines.
Büntgen Ulf, Allen Kathy, Anchukaitis Kevin J., Arseneault Dominique, Boucher Étienne, Bräuning Achim, Chatterjee Snigdhansu, Cherubini Paolo, Churakova Olga V., Corona Christophe, Gennaretti Fabio, Grießinger Jussi, Guillet Sebastian, Guiot Joel, Gunnarson Björn, Helama Samuli, Hochreuther Philipp, Hughes Malcolm K., Huybers Peter, Kirdyanov Alexander V., Krusic Paul J., Ludescher Josef, Meier Wolfgang J.-H., Myglan Vladimir S., et al. (2021), The influence of decision-making in tree ring-based climate reconstructions, in Nature Communications, 12(1), 3411-3411.
Helama Samuli, Stoffel Markus, Hall Richard J., Jones Phil D., Arppe Laura, Matskovsky Vladimir V., Timonen Mauri, Nöjd Pekka, Mielikäinen Kari, Oinonen Markku (2021), Recurrent transitions to Little Ice Age-like climatic regimes over the Holocene, in Climate Dynamics, 56(11-12), 3817-3833.
Cryptotephra from the Icelandic Veiðivötn 1477 CE eruption in a Greenland ice core: confirming the dating of volcanic events in the 1450s CE and assessing the eruption’s climatic impact
Abbott Peter M., Plunkett Gill, Corona Christophe, Chellman Nathan J., McConnell Joseph R., Pilcher John R., Stoffel Markus, Sigl Michael (2021), Cryptotephra from the Icelandic Veiðivötn 1477 CE eruption in a Greenland ice core: confirming the dating of volcanic events in the 1450s CE and assessing the eruption’s climatic impact, in Climate of the Past, 17(2), 565-585.
Guillet Sébastien, Corona Christophe, Ludlow Francis, Oppenheimer Clive, Stoffel Markus (2020), Climatic and societal impacts of a “forgotten” cluster of volcanic eruptions in 1108-1110 CE, in Scientific Reports, 10(1), 6715-6715.
Main & secondary applicants
- Prof. Markus Stoffel, Insitute for Environmental Sciences – University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
- Prof. Salvatore Di Falco, Geneva School of Economics and Management – University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
- Dr. Patrick Fonti, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland.
- Dr. Myriam Khodri, Laboratoire d’Océanographie et du Climat — Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.
- Dr. Francis Ludlow, Department of Geography – Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
- Dr. Deepak Ray, Global Landscapes Initiative Institute on the Environment (IonE) – University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA.
- Dr. Michael Joseph Puma, Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies