The Eyjafjallajokull volcano and global warming link has been all over the Internet lately. People have been wondering whether if the volcano, that had wreaked so much havoc for airlines, will at least decrease carbon dioxide emissions.
As it so happens, the answer is yes, and no.
Technically, a strong enough volcano eruption could cool the earth, indirectly. Sulfur dioxide is released during large volcanic eruptions, and when combined with water vapor it produces little particles that settle into the Earth’s stratosphere. These particles reflect the light, so the sun’s radiation bounces back before ever hitting the earth, inadvertently cooling the climate. Some researchers say this may eventually be the case with Eyjafjallajokull, although it hasn’t quite been strong enough yet.
So how is it helping reduce carbon dioxide emissions? This volcano eruption is emitting 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide a day. By comparison, airplanes traveling in Europe usually emit 340,000 tons daily. The travelers that normally would have been using airplanes were now using other means of transportation, whether it be through car, train, or even boat. Its not like all of Europe has stopped moving because of airplanes. Any five days of flight cancellations saves over1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Its been a total of seven days since the plane flights have halted.
Granted, the volcano may have wreaked havoc for the unsuspecting air travelers and lost the airline industry millions of dollars. However, it did give us an insight on global warming, and perhaps these theories with volcanoes could be applicable in the future. Scientists are still researching to find out.