Multi-model comparison of the volcanic sulfate deposition from the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora

The eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 was the largest volcanic eruption of the past 500 years. The eruption had significant climatic impacts, leading to the 1816 “year without a summer”, and remains a valuable event from which to understand the climatic effects of large stratospheric volcanic sulfur dioxide injections. The eruption also resulted in one of the strongest and most easily identifiable volcanic sulfate signals in polar ice cores, which are widely used to reconstruct the timing and atmospheric sulfate loading of past eruptions. As part of the Model Intercomparison Project on the climatic response to Volcanic forcing (VolMIP), five state-of-the-art global aerosol models simulated this eruption. We analyse both simulated background (no Tambora) and volcanic (with Tambora) sulfate deposition to polar regions and compare to ice core records. The models simulate overall similar patterns of background sulfate deposition, although there are differences in regional details and magnitude. However, the volcanic sulfate deposition varies considerably between the models with differences in timing, spatial pattern and magnitude. Mean simulated deposited sulfate on Antarctica ranges from 19 to 264 kg km−2 and on Greenland from 31 to 194 kg km−2, as compared to the mean ice-core-derived estimates of roughly 50 kg km−2 for both Greenland and Antarctica. The ratio of the hemispheric atmospheric sulfate aerosol burden after the eruption to the average ice sheet deposited sulfate varies between models by up to a factor of 15. Sources of this inter-model variability include differences in both the formation and the transport of sulfate aerosol. Our results suggest that deriving relationships between sulfate deposited on ice sheets and atmospheric sulfate burdens from model simulations may be associated with greater uncertainties than previously thought.


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Authors: Marshall, Lauren, Schmidt, Anja, Toohey, Matthew, Carslaw, Ken S., Mann, Graham W., Sigl, Michael, Khodri, Myriam, Timmreck, Claudia, Zanchettin, Davide, Ball, William T., Bekki, Slimane, Brooke, James S. A., Dhomse, Sandip, Johnson, Colin, Lamarque, Jean-Francois, LeGrande, Allegra N., Mills, Michael J., Niemeier, Ulrike, Pope, James O. ORCIDORCID record for James O. Pope, Poulain, Virginie, Robock, Alan, Rozanov, Eugene, Stenke, Andrea, Sukhodolov, Timofei, Tilmes, Simone, Tsigaridis, Kostas, Tummon, Fiona

On this site: James Pope
15 February, 2018
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics / 18
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