Fire and Ice

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Science  29 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5599, pp. 1681
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5599.1681d

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Two of the largest aerosol-producing eruptions of the 20th century occurred in Agung, Java, and Pinatubo, Philippines, and each altered the global CO2 budget.

Now Gíslason et al. have estimated the importance of submarine eruptions on the CO2 budget by measuring the effects of a subglacial eruption. In October 1996, a 13-day volcanic eruption occurred beneath about 500 m of ice within the Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland. About 3 cubic km of ice melted, and the meltwater, containing about one million tons of dissolved magmatic species, including CO2, flowed through a channel into the Grímsvötn subglacial lake. The lake was catastrophically drained in a 2-day flood, releasing the meltwater into a subaerial river network that emptied into the ocean. About half of the measured carbon flux from the eruption will be added to the global CO2 budget; however, there may have been a transient net CO2 removal from the ocean and atmosphere right after the eruption because of carbonate deposition and biological fixation. — LR

Chem. Geol.190, 181 (2002).

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