How Do Volcanoes Affect The Earth? Truth About Volcanic Eruptions

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Outdoor & NatureLearn more
In the Earth's history, the first largest volcanic eruption was Tambora, on 10 April 1815. Read to find the answer to 'how do volcanoes affect the Earth?'

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The term 'volcano' is derived from the word for the Roman god of fire called 'Vulcan'.

A volcano is a rupture on the surface of the Earth that can spew lava, gases, and volcanic ash. Volcanoes can be formed by thinning of plates of the Earth's crust or stretching of the Earth crust plates, as in the Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field and the East African Rift.

Volcanos are important as they are one of the reasons why life on the planet Earth began. Eruption of different sizes of volcanoes and time span have different effects on the Earth's atmosphere. The explosion of a volcano can affect weather, and changes can be both physical and chemical. An example of chemical climate change is acid rain which is caused when fossil fuels burn. Acid rain is one such form of precipitation high in sulfuric acid and that can cause erosion of any material it comes into contact with. An example of physical climate change is the wind blowing through a desert plain. This process forms certain pyramid-like shapes and is called ventifacts. Larger particles of dust and ash, sulfur dioxide, and greenhouse gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide produced during major eruptions cause global warming.

The largest volcano is Olympus Mons, which is on planet Mars. Surprising, right? So keep on reading to know more unknown facts about the eruptions of volcanoes. Also, do read our facts articles on: is Bahrain an island and how long can a polar bear stay underwater.

Volcanic eruption meaning and why do they happen?

Components of the Earth, such as rock, hot lava, and dust that escape from volcanoes in the form of explosions, are known as volcanic eruptions. Powder-like particles of rocks that escape explosions are known as volcanic dust and can come from the top of the volcano or the sides of a volcano. What can be dangerous is when large amounts of volcanic ash and rock erupt.

When molten rock called magma comes to the surface of a volcano, it erupts. When the mantle of the Earth melts, magma forms; here, melting can occur when tectonic plates break apart, or one plate is pushed under another. As magma rises, gas bubbles appear within it. Flowing magma erupts through holes in the earth's crust before flowing to its surface like lava. When magma is viscous, gas bubbles cannot escape easily, and the pressure increases as the magma rise, which causes the rumbling sound. If the pressure is too high, explosive volcanic eruptions can occur, which can be dangerous and destructive. Another way volcanoes erupt is when the water below the surface interacts with hot magma, creating steam that can create enough pressure to cause an explosion.

Volcanic Eruptions And Changes Made To The Earth

In 1991, a volcano called Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, and the change of climate after the volcanic eruption was widespread. The ash cloud from the Pinatubo eruption reached more than 24.8 mi (40 km) into the atmosphere and emitted about 17 million ton (15422 million kg) of sulfur dioxide, slightly more than double that of El Chichón in 1982. It was sulfur-rich gases that carried the ash cloud around the world within three weeks.

Sulfur dioxide migrates in the stratosphere and mixes with water to form sulfate aerosols, submicron droplets containing sulfuric acid of about 75%. Sulfuric acid creates a mist of tiny droplets in the stratosphere that reflect solar radiation and cool the Earth's surface.

One of the major impacts of large explosive eruptions on the global climate is cooling followed by winter warming on Northern Hemisphere continents, as illustrated by Pinatubo. Ash and aerosol particles in the atmosphere scatter light with red wavelengths, which often causes colorful sunsets and sunrises around the world, which is a bonus of volcanic eruptions. One of its huge disadvantages is that the lava flowing out of it destroys or melts everything on land, including farms, roads, and houses. It also affects humans in a really bad way as it may cause burns, infectious disease, respiratory illness, and they might also suffer injuries from falls. It also affects the sea as it decreases the water level and surface temperature of the sea.

When a volcanic explosion occurs, large amounts of volcanic gases, aerosol particles, and volcanic ash are introduced into the stratosphere, the uppermost layer of the Earth's atmosphere. The ash introduced falls quickly from the stratosphere and has very less impact on climate change. Gases of volcanoes such as sulfur dioxide can cause cooling, while volcanic carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, has the capability to increase global warming.

There are more than 1,500 active volcanoes across the world. Most of them are located around the Pacific Ocean, which is known as the 'Ring of Fire.'

Effect Of Volcanic Eruptions On Weather

There is a list of reasons that why large volcanic eruptions affect the climate. First of all, volcanic explosions produce large amounts of carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. These greenhouse gases trap heat radiated from the Earth's surface and form a kind of insulation around the Earth.

Large-scale volcanic activity can last only a few days, but mass eruptions of gas and ash particles can affect climate change for many years. Global climate impacts are quite unlikely due to the eruption of southern latitude, but as mass emission levels of sulfur dioxide increase, these eruptions may temporarily increase the concentrations of volcanic aerosols in the lower stratosphere, as well as the upper troposphere, and can stay over many years in the stratosphere.

A volcanic eruption definitely adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere but compare that to the amount of CO2 created by human activities, and it isn't as big a threat. Large eruptions every year produces about 110 million ton (99790.3 million kg) of CO2, while human activities produce billions of tons of CO2. The large eruption column introduces the ash and sulfur gases, which created the ash cloud. Tiny ash particles reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface and lower global temperatures.

Can volcanoes cause rain?

The eruption of a volcano is not only limited to affecting the temperature. Other major effects on the weather near a volcano include a lot of rain, lightning, and thunder during an explosion.

This is because every ash particle that is released into the atmosphere is good at collecting water droplets. The great low-pressure belt is a major source of rainfall in Africa. This has consequences for the climate in the Atlantic Ocean. In the months leading up to the eruption, Hawaii was flooded with unusually extreme and long rainfall.

Rain does not stop volcanoes. In fact, rainwater will find its way through the pores of the volcanic rock and increase the pressure inside, to reduce the hardness of the rock and allow magma to rise to the surface. Another problem in Hawaii is the formation of volcanic fog. However, the ongoing eruption is calm there, with lava flowing through tubes, and after that, into the ocean.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how do volcanoes affect the Earth? truth about volcanic eruptions, then why not take a look at baffling Bermuda Triangle facts: deep diving into this marine mystery, or are mongoose dangerous? do they attack us or only 'rattle' snakes?


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