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Icy blast from the past

Cerro HudsonWhat’s the connection between Antarctic ice, old volcanic eruptions and global warming? US researchers think they know.

Volcanic activity can have serious consequences for climate change as particles and gases spewed out by volcanoes enter the upper atmosphere and change its chemical balance altering how Solar radiation is absorbed or reflected. Now, French and US researchers have devised a technique for determining how past volcanic eruptions could have affected this delicate chemical balance. Their findings could reduce significantly the uncertainty in current models of global climate change and so provide more accurate predictions of future global temperatures.

Joël Savarino of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the University of Grenoble in France together with colleagues at the University of California San Diego have reported the pattern of sulphur isotopes of volcanic fallout from past eruptions. They also determined how far into the upper atmosphere the volcanic material reached, and what chemical reactions might have occurred there.

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