UCD researchers aim to shed light on eruption frequency

The A.D. 1600 eruption ofthe Peruvian stratovolcano Huaynaputina may have had a global environmental impact, according to the recent findings of UC Davis geology professor Kenneth Verosub and senior geology major Jake Lippman.

The A.D. 1600 eruption ofthe Peruvian stratovolcano Huaynaputina may have had a global environmental impact, according to the recent findings of UC Davis geology professor Kenneth Verosub and senior geology major Jake Lippman.

Huaynaputina exploded onFeb.19,1600,making it the largest South American eruption inrecorded history,according to the Smithsonian Institution.The aftermath of theeruption was devastating to local communities both physically and economically,but until recently not much was known about its effects onthe global scale.

In addition to learning more about the eruption’s widespread effects,Verosub and Lippman’s research may become useful in determining the frequency of such eruptions.It was a question of frequency that first interested them in the research,Lippman said.

The eruption of Tambora causedThe Year without a Summer,said Lippman in an e-mail interview.We wondered if this was an isolated event or could an event of this magnitude happen periodicallyover time.

The Tambora eruption,which occurred in1812,is famous for its devastating effect onNorthern Europe.

According to the U.S.Geological Survey,volcanic eruptions can oftentimes create a cooling effect on the earth due to the release of dust particles that block the sunlight.However,eruptions such asthat of Huaynaputina that release large amounts of sulfur can have a much stronger effect on the climate.When the sulfur compounds combine with moisture in the air,theyform tiny droplets,producing a haze of sulfuric acid.This creates a cooling effect on the earth that can lastforup to two years after an eruption.

Verosub and Lippmanlooked at17th century records in search of global environmental changes in the time period following the Huaynaputina eruption.

We noticed that in1600there was a huge eruption inPeru as well as a famine inRussia in1601,said Lippman.In order to prove that the eruption of1600caused global disturbance in1601and that the famine inRussia was not just a coincidence we needed to dig up records that showed worldwide effects.

They found that the year1601was marked by a number of climatic and agricultural changes in various parts of the world including remarkably cold winters,early freezes,late harvests,and famine.

Verosub and Lippman’s report,published in Eos,may change thecurrent estimation of thereturn period of such eruptions from10,000years to around300or less.

Lippman said that they will expand on their research through examining further records fromboththeMing Dynasty and the Spanish empirein hopes of discovering more abnormalities.They also hope to learn more about the global sociological effects of the eruption.

“All of this provides new insights into how volcanic activity can affect humans and how humans respond to the impacts of volcanic eruptions,Verosubsaid.

 

ERICA LEE can be reached at campus@californiaaggie.com.