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Advances in Meteorology
Volume 2014, Article ID 340123, 17 pages
Review Article

On the Role of Climate Forcing by Volcanic Sulphate and Volcanic Ash

Institute of Geophysics, University of Hamburg, Geomatikum, Office 1411, Bundesstraße 55, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

Received 27 October 2013; Accepted 7 January 2014; Published 27 February 2014

Academic Editor: Klaus Dethloff

Copyright © 2014 Baerbel Langmann. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


There is overall agreement that volcanic sulphate aerosols in the stratosphere can reduce solar radiation reaching the earth’s surface for years, thereby reducing surface temperatures, affecting global circulation patterns and generally the global climate system. However, the response of the climate system after large volcanic eruptions is not fully understood and global climate models have difficulties to reproduce the observed variability of the earth system after large volcanic eruptions until now. For geological timescales, it has been suggested that, in addition to the stratospheric climate forcing by volcanic sulphate aerosols, volcanic ash affects climate by modifying the global carbon cycle through iron fertilising the surface ocean and stimulating phytoplankton growth. This process has recently also been observed after the eruption of the volcano Kasatochi on the Aleutian Islands in summer 2008. To trigger future research on the effect of volcanic ash on the climate system via ocean iron fertilisation, this review paper describes the formation processes and atmospheric life cycles of volcanic sulphate and volcanic ash, contrasts their impact on climate, and emphasises current limitations in our understanding.