Volcanic Eruption Not Associated With Climate Change

Some scientists speculate that climate change (warming) may be increasing the frequency and intensity of volcanism, but there is no clear evidence of this.
23 Jan 2022 17:33
Volcanic Eruption Not Associated With Climate Change
Eruption at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, witnessed by Tongan Geological Services observer team on January 14, 2022. Photo: Taaniela Kula/TGS

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano has nothing to do with climate change.

Despite some arguments that the two phenomenons are inter-related, there is no clear evidence of the connection.

That’s the view of two renowned geologist who’ve lived and worked in the region for several years.

Even the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also noted that volcanic eruptions are often discussed in relation to climate change. This was largely because of the release of CO2 (and other gases) into our atmosphere.

However, it pointed out that human contributions to the carbon cycle are more than 100 times those from all the volcanoes in the world – combined

Professor of Geography at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Patrick D. Nunn said volcanoes have been active for tens of thousands of years.

“Some scientists speculate that climate change (warming) may be increasing the frequency and intensity of volcanism, but there is no clear evidence of this.”

He explained that in Tonga there is a line of raised limestone islands (including Tongatapu and Vava’u) and a line of active volcanic islands, some above sea (like Tofua) and some below sea (like Hunga). These volcanoes are periodically active, especially the undersea ones at Hunga and Fonuafo’u (Falcon Island) which erupt every 10-20 years.

The eruption of these volcanoes is because the Pacific crustal plate is being pushed down below the Australian crustal plate along the Tonga Trench.

When the Pacific Plate is pushed down deep enough (tens of km) it melts and the liquid rock (magma) then tries to reach the ground surface.

It does so from time to time, which is why the Hungas erupt and similar volcanoes in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Internationally regarded exploration geologist majoring in marine and economic geology, Geoff Taylor also reiterated Professor Nunn’s sentiments.

“A volcanic eruption has nothing to do with climate change.”

He added that there is unlikely to be an eruption in Fiji as the volcanoes are not active just like the one in Uluivalili in Savusavu with a volcanic crater.

He claims that the youngest volcano in Fiji is near the Savusavu Airport and also in Taveuni which erupted in 500 A.D.

“There are at least 1000 active volcanoes in the Pacific now but the one in Tonga was very strong.

“It amazed me as when you look at it closely, you can see the bathymetric imagery of the topography near the seafloor, it’s actually on a fracture, so it appears to me that when it erupted it breached and blew out along one of those fractures given the location.”

Mr Taylor said the “once in a 1000-years eruption,” was similar to when you pull the plug out of the bathtub.

“I suspect that the noise was so loud apart from the fact that it was quite a big eruption, it was covered by the sea and water overlying.”

Climate scientists often bring up volcanic eruptions to better understand and explain short periods of cooling in our planet’s past.

Past NASA observations have shown that every few decades or so when there is a volcanic eruption, it will effectively shield us enough from the Sun to lead to a short-lived global cooling period.


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