The impacts of the 2014 eruption of Holuhraun in Iceland: the tropospheric equivalent of Mount Pinatubo
Thursday, 17 December 2015: 09:30
3014 (Moscone West)
During the period 31st August September 2014- 28th February 2015, a significant fissure eruption occurred in the Holuhraun area of Iceland. Unlike the well documented eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, this eruption has received relatively little public attention as the emissions are at low altitude, there is little accompanying ash, and thus there has not been any impact on trans-Atlantic air-traffic. However, the emission rates of sulphur dioxide from the eruption during the first two months was at least four times those from the entire 28 European member states and the continuous nature of the eruption means that by the end of the eruption, the emissions of sulphur dioxide exceeded the total annual emission targets of all of Europe. We provide a comprehensive global modelling estimate of the impact on cloud microphysics and show that the empirical relationship between degassed sulphur and TiO2/FeO ratios derived from prior Icelandic basaltic flood lava has undoubted utility. The impact of the sulphur dioxide cloud droplet size is clearly identified in satellite retrievals over the entire North Atlantic. Pristine clouds of lesser reflectivity were replaced by polluted clouds of higher reflectivity. This eruption provides an ideal test bed for validating models and inter-comparing observations of aerosol-cloud-interactions. Simulations with HadGEM3 including a detailed aerosol-microphysical scheme show excellent agreement with observations of cloud effective radius and cloud droplet number concentration and we use the model to assess the detectability of other variables such as aerosol optical depth, cloud liquid water path, cloud optical depth and radiation forcing. We conclude that, just as the explosive eruption of Pinatubo into the stratosphere provided the basis for many model and satellite analysis and inter-comparisons, the Holuhraun eruption provides a similar counterpart for focussing analyses of tropospheric cloud-aerosol interactions.