A new study has found that volcanic eruptions can reduce water flows in major rivers. Researchers have hypothesized that this is the cause why the volume of major rivers, including the Amazon, Nile and Congo, has dropped by up 10% throughout the past century.
This is the first study of its kind, conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh. Scientists have compared the flow in 50 rivers around the world with the timing of recorded volcanic eruptions of considerable proportion. Some of the most notable ones mentioned in the study are Agug in 1963, El Chichon in 1982 and Pinatubo in 1991.
In order to calculate the exact impact on the volume of major rivers, researchers have then compared their data to changes in the water flows of the Nile and Amazon. Through these calculations, they have determined that the average water flow has been reduced by 10%.
The new findings have pointed out a water reduction was recorded immediately following all significant volcanic eruptions throughout the 20th century. However, it is also reported that some rivers have increased in volume, in contradiction with the usual trend, because of atmospheric circulation patterns. This effect was only limited to sub-tropical regions however, in certain parts of South America.
This might not sound like a lot, but scientists have warned that it could have major consequences on agriculture. The effects however are not felt immediately, but take place gradually in the long term.
However, this also has a cooling effect on the climate, as particles ejected by volcanic eruptions linger in the stratosphere for years, reflecting back sunlight. The eruption of Pinatubo is cited as a reference point for this type of effect.
Proponents of ‘radiation management’ even advocate for recreating a similar effect in order to cool down the planet. This can be achieved by injecting massive quantities of similar particles high into the sky, through the use of cannons, airplanes and giant tubes.
Carley Iles, of the University of Edinburgh, has stated that geo-engineering schemes to cool down the planet are likely to have an adverse effect against a naturally occurring cooling effect.
Scientists have warned that interfering with climate patterns can have long-term consequences and ultimately backfire on the wellbeing of the world’s population, if further investigation is not conducted. Iles urges for further research on the matter and advises caution and reservation on the application of geo-engineering plans, at this stage.
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