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Journal Article

The Role of the SO2 Radiative Effect in Sustaining the Volcanic Winter and Soothing the Toba Impact on Climate


Osipov,  Sergey
Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Osipov, S., Stenchikov, G., Tsigaridis, K., LeGrande, A. N., & Bauer, S. E. (2020). The Role of the SO2 Radiative Effect in Sustaining the Volcanic Winter and Soothing the Toba Impact on Climate. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 125(2): e2019JD031726. doi:10.1029/2019JD031726.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-3F27-7
Volcanic eruptions are an important climate driver. The impact of Pinatubo‐sized eruptions has been observed and is well constrained. The magnitude and duration of volcanic winter effects after supereruptions such as Toba remain disputed due to disagreement between the strong cooling predicted by models and much milder climate perturbations according to the paleodata. Here we present a reevaluated climate impact of a Toba‐sized supereruption based on up‐to‐date GISS ModelE simulations. In this study, we account for all known primary mechanisms that govern the evolution of the volcanic plume and their nonlinear interactions. The SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0003 radiative effects are evaluated for the first time in coupled climate simulations with the interactive atmospheric chemistry module. We found that SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0004 effects on photochemistry, dynamics, and radiative forcing are especially prominent. Due to strong absorption in ultraviolet, SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0005 feedback on photochemistry partially offsets the limiting effect associated with aerosol microphysical processes. SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0006 greenhouse warming soothes the radiative cooling exerted by sulfate aerosols. SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0007 absorption in the shortwave and longwave causes radiative heating and lofting of the volcanic plume, and boosts the efficiency of SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0008 impact on photochemistry. Our analysis shows that SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0009 lifetime and magnitude of effects scale up and increase with the amount of emitted material. For a Pinatubo‐sized eruption, SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0010 feedbacks on chemistry and dynamics are relevant only during the initial stage of the volcanic plume evolution, while local SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0011 concentrations are high. For a Toba‐sized eruption, SO urn:x-wiley:jgrd:media:jgrd55993:jgrd55993-math-0012 effects are as important as sulfate aerosols and produce a less extreme volcanic winter.