Cold Coincidence, Or Volcanic Coordination?

Climate, Volcanoes and History

Climate, Volcanoes and History

Historically, there’s a tendency for more volcanoes to show up in cold times. There’s a fair amount of confusion about it, with some folks saying they cause the cold, and others saying they come after the cold is underway. Yet more say it’s just a random coincidence.

We’ve had the sun go very very quiet, and “warming” promptly halted. (IMHO to turn to significant coldening in the next decade or two). So, is there anything else going on that fits the pattern? (Other than that cold British winter last year and the rather wet and cold winter in the Southern Hemisphere this winter…)

There was just a news flash on Fox or CNN ( I was channel hoping again ;-) about a volcano in Russia getting ready to pop. Unfortunately, I can’t find a link for that story right now. Perhaps in a bit.

But I did find this interesting ‘story’ to add to the news flow:

From last summer, we have this speculation about what might be the pattern:

Russian volcano activity causes global concern
bne – 07.02.2011

Now the world has something else to grip about when it comes to Russia – the weather.

A string of volcanoes on Russia’s eastern seaboard of Kamchatka have been unusually active for the last six months. The dust they threw up diverted winds in the Arctic, pushing cold air over Europe and North America and causing the unusually cold winter this year, say scientists.

The volcanoes (160 in total, of which 29 are active) are still on the go and could create more problems this year, depressing harvests around the world just as global food prices soar and culminating in a second freezing winter next Christmas.

As we are now approaching “next Christmas” it will be very interesting to see what this all means… Here’s what they were worried about then:

The eruptions have come at the worst possible time. The Pacific Ocean has already been cooled by the so-called La Nina – which contributed to the deluge in Australia and Tropical Cyclones – while at the same time the Atlantic Ocean is warmer than usual, say climatologists. Erste Bank says the combination of this means the weather forecast for the first quarter of this year is extreme, which will hit both the agricultural and mining sectors, sending already spiking prices up even faster. “These climatic conditions reduce the outlooks of harvest for agricultural commodities (last year was also bad) and prevent the mining of commodities like coal,” says Erste. “The extreme weather will probably culminate in the [first quarter] – this is the reason why the prices of commodities will be influenced by this weather… then an acceleration of consumer inflation… There are also problems for transport due to strong storms.”

The combination shifts wind patterns around the world, but the spanner in the works has been the Kamchatka volcanoes, which are throwing massive amounts of dust into the air, causing the Arctic to become even colder and Arctic winds to push farther south, resulting in a very drastic change in patterns. “Kamchatka tends to be somewhat active – but recently it has been ridiculous! Since late November, Kizimen, Sheveluch, Karymsky, and Kliuchevskoi have been erupting almost constantly,” Evelyn Browning Garriss writes in the Browning Newsletter, a monthly weather publication.

Volcanic ash screens out the sun, cooling the air below. This lowers air pressures, which in turn changes wind patterns, especially in the Arctic. The upshot is, Browning Garriss says, “the cold air normally trapped around the North Pole surges south.”

So now we’ve got an “Alert” being issued for more Russian Volcano activity and we’ve got a prediction that it might happen and make thing even colder than last winter. We’ve got a sleepy sun and increasing volcanoes, and we’ve got an historical pattern of cold coming with a particular orbital cycle and solar slowdown, accompanied by volcanoes.

Coincidence? I don’t think geology and astrophysics works on coincidence all that often…

Now if Katla starts waking up

So far, all I’ve found is this from a day ago:

Tuesday 4th December 2012
Tolbachik Volcano, Kamchatka, Russia
Seismic activity has declined but the eruption continues at Tolbachik volcano, Kamchatka. During the peak activity on 28-29 November 2012 the fissures spread over tens of kilometres, and the eruption was heard 60 kilometres away. The current eruption is similar to the Great Fissure eruption in 1975-76, but lower in intensity. A fissure 5 kilometres long has formed on the southern slope of the Plosky Tolbachik, in the same area as 36 years ago, but at a higher elevation – about two thousand metres above sea level. There are two active centres which are producing lava flows. A 10 kilometre long lava flow destroyed a monitoring station of the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Vodopadny creek, as well as the Leningradskaya station of the institute. A base of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka natural park has also been destroyed in the same area. Ashfall was reported 65 kilometres from the volcano up to a depth of 4 cm. Eruptions at the upper fissure have stopped, but the lower fissure continues to be active. Tolbachik volcano is 343 kilometres south west of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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34 Responses to Cold Coincidence, Or Volcanic Coordination?

  1. gallopingcamel says:

    The impact of individual volcanos covers a huge range. On might say that some volcanos are more equal than others. One Mount Tambora is worth several Krakatoas and hundreds of Mount St. Helens.

    Just counting volcanic eruptions does not mean much. When the next super-volcano happens in the Yellowstone National Park it will be more significant that all the eruptions in the 20th century combined. Could such an eruption (~2,500 cubic kilometers of ejecta) trigger another “Little Ice Age”?

  2. John Robertson says:

    If the theory that Sun and earth have interacting rotating magnetic fields, still stands, it would be logical that a weakening of the suns magnetic field strength would cause the earths field to change.
    As the crust rides on magna which is influenced by the rotating iron core of the earth, then the change in field interactions will cause magna currents to change and earthquakes(crust flex), if the magna change is pressure out from the centre(weaker fields?) then volcanic activity could rise.
    All speculation from, odd fragments from the days science magazines had science in them, and 35 yrs in the electrical trade.
    WUWT had a post on solar activity weakening and earthquakes, I think.
    Actually earthquakes might be all thats needed as volcanoes are weak points in the crust, a little shake might clear the passages.

  3. Power Grab says:

    I keep thinking that interacting electromagnetic fields could be the key…but what part would increasing cosmic rays play, in the face of both a quiet sun and a weakening geomagnetic field for earth?

  4. John F. Hultquist says:

    I was reading along, doing okay, until this:

    Volcanic ash screens out the sun, cooling the air below. This lowers air pressures, which in turn changes wind patterns, especially in the Arctic. The upshot is, Browning Garriss says, “the cold air normally trapped around the North Pole surges south.

    Cooler air ought to become more dense and of higher pressure. As such, it should flow out, from the Arctic, to the south. If an area has lower pressure the flow ought to be toward that (disregarding the geostrophic wind, and related matters). Maybe the text quoted is terse to a fault. Or maybe I’m just a little dull tonight after a busy day!

    John R. says: “. . . as volcanoes are weak points in the crust . . .”

    That’s too broad a brush for me. At spreading centers (mid-ocean ridge) the phrase fits. Volcanoes as part of a subduction zone (the really explosive ones) – not so much. The continental crust is less dense, thicker, and melts at a lower temperature. Weaker seems too fuzzy a term for it.

  5. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Movement of materials cause EMF reaction, Emf reaction cause material movements. Magnetic fields can prevent movement acceleration as well as cause acceleration of material during changes in magnetic fields. A quiet sun seems to result in confused organization of the earths magnetic fields. This also demonstrates increased volcanism as the suns output cools down. While earth cooling seems to go along with volcanism, the cooling often leads rather then follows eruptions. Volcanoes are more like springs of rising liquid rather then weak points in the Earths crust. pg

  6. P.G. Sharrow says:

    The most active and recent area of molten rock springs in the western states are along the California – Oregon border. The Medicine Lake or Devils Garden area, most of this just flowed out and created small cones or none at all. The giant Mount Tehema volcano has one very small active cone on its’ northeast flank called Mount Lassen that erupted 100 years ago. pg

  7. ChrisM says:

    It may stuff up your theory, but the last real eruption of Taupo was about AD231. As that one was bigger than any shown on your graph, and put ash high enough for the Chinese to comment on the red sunsets, it should have had some effect. .

  8. Zeke says:

    That is quite a chart. It is incredible.

    In the Electric Sun model, the earth is adjusting to its changing space environment, as an electret in a plasma sheath. When there are changes in electrical stress because of variations in solar activity (or charged particles streaming from the sun), the earth responds like a capacitor by discharging electrically in underground lightning – volcanoes and earthquakes are underground electrical discharges.

    When the sun is quieter, there are more fast electrons coming from the sun. All of this subterranean activity isn’t from cosmic rays; it is from either steep or abrupt changes in charge, or from the increased electrons coming from the quiet sun.

    Now those electrons also flow into the Van Allen Belts, which is what the twin probes NASA just sent up will find – if they survive.

  9. R. de Haan says:

    First images of the Tolbachik fissure erutiions here:
    and other volcanic activity here:

    Both Joe Bastardi and Joseph D’Aleo wrote about the volcanic influence on our weather patterns and I am sure they were spot on when we had substantial volcanic activity two and three years ago.
    But to be honest, I’m not really impressed by the visuals of the current Tolbachi activity. Bigger forces affect our jet stream and it’s certainly not CO2:

    A comment from Stephen Wilde at a WUWT article made the most sense to me:

    An active sun draws the air circulation poleward to allow more energy into the oceans. In the process skewing the balance between El Nino and La Nina events in favour of El Nino over periods longer than the 60 year Pacific Multidecadal Oscillation.

    At the same time the movement poleward of the air circulation allows a faster rate of energy transfer through the system.

    The faster throughput prevents an increase in system energy content.

    So, high solar activity allows BOTH more energy into the system and faster energy out of the system.

    Low solar activity lets less energy into the system AND slower energy out of the system.

    When the equatorial air masses expand due to more energy into the oceans, the activity along the ITCZ intensifies (Willis’s Thermostat Hypothesis) to feed those wider and more intense subtropical high pressure cells. There is an increase in convective overturning and more radiative heat loss from clearer equatorial skies.

    Also, when the mid latitude jets move more poleward they have a narrower, more direct track around the planet but they get faster with more intense cyclogenesis concentrated in a smaller area. Another increase in convective overturning.

    The opposite when solar activity is low.

    The system energy content remains much the same during the warming and cooling phases (apart from some variation in ocean heat content) but the regional distribution of polar and equatorial air masses changes with climate consequences for the regions most affected and that happens to be the mid latitudes.

    In the mid latitudes there will be changes in the dominant wind direction.

    During a global warming spell, at about 45 degrees north and south, the frequency of air flows from an equatorial direction will increase and during a cooling spell the frequency of flows from a polar direction will increase.

    Western Europe is about the best example. Lots of south and west winds when the globe is warming and lots of north and east winds when the globe is cooling.

    In the short term the diagnosis is confounded by irregularities in the air flow caused by landmass distribution, the degree of jetstream zonality or meridionality and by chaotic variability but over multiple decades the effects are obvious as per the multitude of papers showing a link between regional weather / climate changes and the levels of solar activity.

    The actual energy content around which the system dances is set by atmospheric pressure on the ocean surface but that is another story.

  10. R. de Haan says:

    Here is another article underlining the same theory:

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    Volcanoes happen where ocean crust (thin) is subducted under continental crust (thicker but lighter). The added water in the ooze on the ocean crust lowers the melt temp of the rocks and makes fluid magma (due to hydrates having lower melt temps) and that flows up through the other rocks and cracks making volcanoes (about 5 to 15 years after the subduction). So in Japan we ought to get Mount Fuji going off in about 6 to 9 years given the big plate movement they just had…

    That’s why the volcanoes in California are up in the mountains and not at the shore. That’s the point where the subducting plate finally gets deep enough to melt… BUT… We also have a spreading zone (like in the ocean bottoms) that’s been buried under thick continent crust. So out in the desert and in Death Valley we have a deep crack that sometimes has little fissure volcanic spews… or in the Salton Sea area were we get ‘intrusions’ under all the mud / muck / lake, etc. and the occasional volcanic point.

    So it’s not so much that it’s ‘weak’ or ‘thin’ for most volcanoes, as that the magma is light weight and highly liquid. Only at the (somewhat unique to California, African Rift, and Iceland) spreading zone on land are they really due to ‘thin’ and ‘weak’ crust. For California those are our smallest volcanic features.

    Don’t know how that relates to Kamchatka. I’ve not looked at it much. It ought to be a subduction zone, but IIRC they have some odd small-plate discontinuities there, so maybe some platelet is partly subducting by partly rifting…

    At any rate, hope that helps explain the dynamics of volcanoes just a bit. That the water content is an important element in subduction melting is often overlooked. Plume volcanoes like Hawaii are another whole process, but that’s part of why they don’t blow up like Mt. St. Helens… Then supervolcano caldera volcanoes like Yellowstone are another whole class… There the giant melt pool holds massive gas loads until the roof collapses (over several miles) and you get violent degassing ejecta launch. “Volcano champaign”… of molten lava… Hope to never see one of those on TV ;-)

    FWIW, I don’t know which is cause and which is effect or if there are any feedbacks. I suspect, with too little evidence, that the volcanoes and cooling are mutually induced and the volcanoes support the cooling trend. But “we’ll see”… and likely soon, IMHO.

  12. sabretoothed says:

    Do you know whats interesting. The Iceland eruption was a high Chloride emitting eruption. Then soon after the new ozone hole at the arctic appeared. And nobody has made the connection…..

  13. R. de Haan says:

    I’m watching the jet stream over Europe for quite some years now but the last months it dives so deep south it’s often off the map: Just watch the current map and bookmark this link;sess=

  14. sabretoothed says:

    Australia also has an interesting rift zone, I think its the 3rd largest in the world, but its currently dormant, the last one was about 5000-7000 years ago

    Another quiet one is Vanuatu which blew an island up in 1453. Maybe Gaua with its lake in the middle of the volcano might blow up at some stage?

    The thing is, I think 1900 to 2000 was only warm because not many volcanoes went off. Apart from Novaerupta and Pinatubo, nothing big really happened at all

  15. Otter says:

    It struck me years ago, that volcanic activity seemed to drop off just at the end of the LIA… just as the sun powered back up. And now that it has fallen asleep again….

    Also (somewhat) pertinent to this, is that the moon Io of jupiter, is incredibly volcanic, as it lies within Jupiter’s magnetic field. I can’t help but think the sun has a similar effect on the Earth. I also find it curious, that many of the volcanoes becoming more active, seem to be in line with the Jet Stream? Iceland and Russia pointing the way towards that.
    Or is that just my imagination?

  16. philjourdan says:

    Before reading comments, so if this is a repeat, I apologize.

    Look closely at the chart. What stands out most starkly? The jerkiness of the past 200 years (versus the relative smooth flows of the first 2300). At first one may guess that this is due to something man is responsible for. And they would be half right. What man is responsible for is documenting history more accurately in the past 200 years (most thermometer readings are 200 or less years old). So while those bulges of past centuries look smooth, the truth is no one was accurately recording them to determine their spikes and sags. Knowing this, then the last 200 years – when smoothed with less accurate documenting – shows another warming bulge, but not one that started in 1970, 1980, or even 1940. But in about 1800 (earlier if you look at he upslope of the LIA). This would indicate (and for a real scientist, be the place to start looking) that it is part of a natural cycle, and not some malevolent design. The graph is projected out for about 2 years in the future to read past highs in warming (although that may be on hold given the pause in warming now for 16 years), but not really exceed them. Indeed, if the projections are accurate, then the spike would be middling, and the length would be abnormally short.

    So what conclusion can be drawn? As EM indicated in the narrative, there does not seem to be a direct correlation with volcanoes. Indeed, there does not appear to even be a pattern with the available data. So no conclusions should be drawn. The data should be noted, and studied to find out what else was happening. In other words, real scientists would still be looking for the Higgs Boson particle, not painting a quark with an HB and declaring the study is over.

  17. Chiefio – Ice Age Now is the place to go for volcanic activity; he keeps a very close eye on it.

  18. John Robertson says:

    I admit weak points was a poor choice,I was trying not to get too long winded, how about all ready existing vents?
    The volcanoes exist therefore this is a spot on the crust that magna has found/created a path to surface at least once already. Thanks for the correction and better info, as the volcanic stuff was fragments dredged out of memory.
    On the earth-sun magnetic/gravity interactions, I read something on this years ago but haven’t recalled the title or author yet. Might have been in an Electrical Engineering mag, after all given our current grasp of gravity and electricity its still magic.
    By human standards the sun and the molten core planets are staggeringly huge dynamos, interacting in ways we do not completely understand.
    Given the energy within the planet, crustal effects must? exist.
    On a compounding note, what about contraction of the crust with a slight cooling? We are given to understand that sea levels change with temperature, would the slight drop in skin pressure or plates moving closer together, cause volcanoes ,causing more cooling, creating a feedback, major panic act.
    With more wild conjecture and maybe some fine weed, a man could whip up another end of world illusion.

  19. John Robertson says:

    @adolfogiurfa, thank you.

  20. E.M.Smith says:


    I think the Australia area isn’t a ‘rift zone’ so much as a ‘hot spot’. While both make interesting volcanoes, the mechanics are different (and the volcano types…). Hot Spots can make quiet persistent volcanoes like Hawaii, or explosive super-volcanoes like Yellowstone and Mammoth “Lakes”… Rift zones can make long linear eruptions, along with chains of smaller volcanoes. They are places where plates are being pulled apart. If you look at Australia, it’s being pushed together. So Iceland is directly on top of a spreading zone. California (and to some extent the whole “Basin and Range” area) is on top of a submerged spreading zone (that maybe ought not be called one any more, or maybe ought…) that’s stretching the place out but hasn’t made new volcanoes in a few thousand years. (Most of the active volcanoes are on the subduction areas up north near Oregon. The southern spreading area is mostly quiet.) The only other area I know of is the “Rift Valley” of Africa where that edge of Africa is being ripped off…

    At any rate, other than that technicality, “way cool!”. Didn’t know Australia had a hot spot and the associated volcanoes! Looks like it’s waking up now too:

    Geologists suspect an earthquake that originated 50 kilometres from King Island in February 2002 signalled the reawakening of the hot spot, a region in the Earth’s crust where the planet expels some of its internal heat.
    Australia’s hot spot is several hundred kilometres wide and lies under Bass Strait and parts of Victoria and Tasmania

    Nice that it’s out to sea just now… So it will make a new island instead of killing off folks for miles around… unless it lets go with a really really big one! ;-)


    The time dependency is intriguing…

    Per the Jet Stream: Doubt there’s a connection. There’s volcanoes all around the “ring of fire” and it’s not coincident with the Jet Stream….

    @John Robertson:

    One of the best ways to visualize how the earth crust moves is to watch the lava pool of an active volcano as crust chunks form and sink. I first saw this in a film about 20-30 years ago and a light bulb went on…. I think it was the Big Island Hawaii. Large chunks of ‘crust’ form and float around on the lava. Eventually an ‘edge’ gets cool and heavy enough and starts to slide under (usually at a crack with another chunk). As that edge starts down, it tends to pull the whole slab sideways after it. A puddle of hot liquid lava is sometimes left behind. At other times, the ‘puddle’ forms new thin crust as the slab is pulled away to the side. In minutes you can see what happens on a global scale over millions of years. Bits of dross floating about, banging into each other, making little ridges (mountain ranges) and then being sucked down to melt again. Some chunks being stable for very long times, others not. gives a good idea…

    Has more “cracking” (rifting) and less ‘subduction water melt’ but gets the idea across.

    Yes, in general, once a ‘weak spot’ is formed, stuff keeps happening there. Until it doesn’t ;-)


    There’s a neat place in that N.Cal volcano field where you can enter a very large lava tube (like dozen meter size…) and walk down it into the earth. Then, about 40 to 60? feet down, you reach an ‘ice floor’. Even in dead middle of summer. The average air temperature of the climate there is below freezing, so water enters and freezes… but never warms up enough to melt as ‘cold sinks’. The stability line for ice is where things are in balance. Kind of amazing, really, to walk out onto an ice floor inside a volcanic tunnel down in the earth…

    At the time, it was a ‘just drive in and look around’ park (30 years ago?). No fees. No rangers. No bother. Don’t know if they let you do that any more. Probably have full time employees and large fees to pay the liability lawyers….


    More comments than I can respond to, individually. Read them all, though. Interesting stuff. There does seem to be a zonal / meridional jet stream cycle that also goes with solar changes that also goes with weather / cold changes that also lines up with magnetic / current changes that lines up with volcanoes. But who causes what? That’s the interesting bit.

  21. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Nick: This is the truth about IO´s pseudo volcanoes:

  22. sabretoothed says:

    Victorian Volcanes, I’ve read some stuff that its a rift zone, a stretching of the area still due to Australia breaking away from Antaractica. I guess its intraplate volcanism, so its either a rift or a hot spot. Some say that the hot spot is moving south and now is in the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania.

    Apparently there has been an eruption every 2000 years. There is a huge line of dormant volcanoes, cones, Maars, lots had long lava flows of hundreds of kilometers. Its just that its all sleeping at the moment.

    There is a hot spring complex on the pennisula, so there is temperature gradients around.

    The interesting thing worldwide, is do you know of any Maars that have suddenly exploded in the last 200-300 years? I don’t think there is an occurrence anywhere worldwide? Yet there are lots of Maars world wide. I wonder what cause a Maar to suddenly occur?

    Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Victorian vulcanicity is its complete cessation. Older basalts were erupted in Victoria through long periods in the Tertiary: the newer basalts were erupted throughout the Pleistocene and extended into the Recent. The last eruption probably took place only 5000 years ago, and yet there are no fumaroles, no hot springs, no anomalous temperature gradients or seismic effects, in fact nothing to indicate how recently the volcanic activity ceased.”

  23. Andrew says:

    latest from Katla – two m2-3 just today – one @ 5 km depth

  24. Zeke says:

    Here is a post from Tallbloke’s Talkshop that should be cross referenced here.


    Volcanoes with silica-rich and highly viscous magma tend to produce violent explosive eruptions that result in disasters in local communities and that strongly affect the global environment. We examined the timing of 11 eruptive events that produced silica-rich magma from four volcanoes in Japan (Mt. Fuji, Mt. Usu, Myojin-sho, and Satsuma-Iwo-jima) over the past 306 years (from AD 1700 to AD 2005). Nine of the 11 events occurred during inactive phases of solar magnetic activity (solar minimum), which is well indexed by the group sunspot number. This strong association between eruption timing and the solar minimum is statistically significant to a confidence level of 96.7%. This relationship is not observed for eruptions from volcanoes with relatively silica-poor magma, such as Izu-Ohshima.

  25. E.M.Smith says:


    Neat correlation! One nit, though: Can’t know if the cosmic rays are causal or just coincidental. Could easily be that tidal change mediates the magma and just happens to come at the same time as solar sleepy and cosmic rays.

    They are all ‘stirred’ by the same orbital resonance mechanics drivers, so will all come together when they come.


    Yes, looks like a bit more volcanism going on. Heard on the news today that one in Ecuador has started up too. It is a frequent erruptor, so what made this one make the news is that it’s stronger than ‘the usual’…

  26. Zeke says:

    ElChiefio says: “One nit, though: Can’t know if the cosmic rays are causal or just coincidental. Could easily be that tidal change mediates the magma and just happens to come at the same time as solar sleepy and cosmic rays.”

    Please, nit away. I do not think the cause is because of the increase in cosmic rays when solar activity is low either.

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