EGU21-946, updated on 26 Jan 2022
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Insights on the timing, global sulfate lifecycle and climate impact of Earth’s largest (pre-) historic volcanic eruptions

Michael Sigl1,2, Florian Adolphi1, Andrea Burke3, Jihong Cole-Dai4, Hubertus Fischer1, Woon Mi Kim1, Kirstin Krüger2, Stefan Lorenz5, Joseph McConnell6, Kurt Nicolussi7, Ulrike Niemeier5, Charlotte Pearson8, Frederick Reinig9, Matthew Salzer8, Mirko Severi10, Claudia Timmreck5, and Matthew Toohey11
Michael Sigl et al.
  • 1Climate and Environmental Physics & Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland (
  • 2Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  • 3School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK
  • 4Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, South Dakota State University, Brookings, USA
  • 5Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 6Desert Research Institute, Nevada System of Higher Education, Reno, USA
  • 7Institute of Geography, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 8Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA
  • 9Department of Geography, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany
  • 10Department of Chemistry ‘Ugo Schiff’, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
  • 11Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

Extratropical volcanic eruptions are commonly thought to be less effective at driving large-scale surface cooling than tropical eruptions, and only the latter are commonly thought to be able to distribute sulfate globally. Here, we test both of these assumptions using a network of ice cores from the polar regions of Antarctica and Greenland covering the past 15’000 years and climate-aerosol modeling. We employ state-of-the-art analyses of trace elements, cryptoptephra and sulphur isotopes (Burke et al., 2019) to gain new insights into the timing of past eruptions, their stratospheric sulphur mass injections and subsequent sulphate aerosol lifecycle. We use this information to estimate the climate impact potential due to negative radiative forcing caused by Earth’s largest volcanic eruptions since the last Glacial. Our analysis encompasses over 1’000 eruptions and include the caldera-forming eruptions of Okmok II (Alaska, 43 BCE, VEI=6, 53°N; McConnell et al., 2020), Aniakchak II (Alaska, 1600s BCE, VEI=6, 57°N), Crater Lake (Mazama, Oregon, 5600s BCE, VEI=7, 43°N) and Laacher See (Germany, c. 13 ka BP, VEI=6, 50°N).

We use our reconstructed radiative forcing and the coupled earth system models MPI-ESM1.2 and CESM (version 1.2.2) to analyze the climatic impact caused by these eruptions and compare the simulated temperature response with temperature reconstructions based on ultra-long tree-ring chronologies. Finally, based on these comparisons, we propose a number of stratigraphic age tie-points to anchor ice-core chronologies from Greenland (GICC05) and Antarctica (WD2014) to the absolute dated tree-ring chronology. We thereby aim to improve proxy synchronization throughout the Holocene -- a prerequisite for detection and attribution studies -- and invite the paleo-climate community to update climate proxy records based on ice cores to the latest chronologies.    

The European Research Council Grant 820047 under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program funded the research project THERA - Timing of Holocene Volcanic eruptions and their radiative aerosol forcing. 



Burke, A., Moore, K. A., Sigl, M., Nita, D. C., McConnell, J. R., and Adkins, J. F.: Stratospheric eruptions from tropical and extra-tropical volcanoes constrained using high-resolution sulfur isotopes in ice cores, Earth Planet Sc Lett, 521, 113-119, 2019.

McConnell, J. R., Sigl, M., Plunkett, G., Burke, A., Kim, W., Raible, C. C., Wilson, A. I., Manning, J. G., Ludlow, F. M., Chellman, N. J., Innes, H. M., Yang, Z., Larsen, J. F., Schaefer, J. R., Kipfstuhl, S., Mojtabavi, S., Wilhelms, F., Opel, T., Meyer, H., and Steffensen, J. P.: Extreme climate after massive eruption of Alaska’s Okmok volcano in 43 BCE and effects on the late Roman Republic and Ptolemaic Kingdom, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117, 15443-15449, 2020.

How to cite: Sigl, M., Adolphi, F., Burke, A., Cole-Dai, J., Fischer, H., Kim, W. M., Krüger, K., Lorenz, S., McConnell, J., Nicolussi, K., Niemeier, U., Pearson, C., Reinig, F., Salzer, M., Severi, M., Timmreck, C., and Toohey, M.: Insights on the timing, global sulfate lifecycle and climate impact of Earth’s largest (pre-) historic volcanic eruptions, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-946,, 2021.

Corresponding displays formerly uploaded have been withdrawn.