June 10th, 1783 – Watts Up With That?

Today in climate history: June 10th, 1783 – Watts Up With That?

Laki Crater Lake Region from above, Iceland

HT/ The CO2 Coalition

The death-dealing cold of the Little Ice Age (1250 – 1850 AD) was particularly brutal for the residents of North Atlantic lands. In 1783, the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Lakikagar (Laki) began in June and continued for 245 days, taking things from bad to worse for the Icelanders.

Laki was likely the most significant eruption of the last 1,000 years in terms of its effect on temperatures of the northern hemisphere. It was so impactful because it was a basaltic-type eruption (think Kilauea) that is prone to large emissions of solar dimming sulfur dioxide. This eruption emitted four times more SO2 than El Chichon and 80 times more than Mount St. Helens. The eruption led to hemisphere-wide climate impacts, including In the eastern United States, where the winter average temperature was 4.8 degrees C below the 225 year average.

It is estimated that as much as 50% of the population and nearly all of the livestock of Iceland perished due to the combination of climate and volcano calamities. The conditions were so dire that the Danish authorities who ruled the nation considered for a time that the entire island be abandoned.

Once again, we find that history tells us to fear the cold and welcome the warmth.

From the link above.

The climatic effects of the Laki eruption are impressive. In the eastern United States, the winter average temperature was 4.8 degrees C below the 225 year average. The estimate for the temperature decrease of the entire Northern Hemisphere is about 1 degree C. The top graph shows change in acidity in micro equivalents H+ per kg in the Greenland icecap. The bottom graph represents the winter temperature records in the eastern United States. From Sigurdsson (1982).

The Laki eruption illustrates that low energy, large volume, long duration basaltic eruptions can have climatic impacts greater than large volume explosive silica-rich eruptions. The sulfur contents of basaltic magmas are 10-100 times higher than silica-rich magmas (Palais and Sigurdsson, 1989)


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