Ash and sul­phur darken the world

Science Illustrated - - NATURE/SUPERVOLCANOES -

The most in­sid­i­ous threats from vol­ca­noes are ash and sul­phur, which cause mas­sive harm to cli­mate, en­vi­ron­ment, and com­mu­ni­ties. And the more se­vere the eruption, the more ash and sul­phur are pro­duced.

An ash cloud rises and spreads with the wind.

The ash blocks out the light, ground­ing planes, whereas sul­phur par­ti­cles make the cloud cover thicker, block­ing out even more sun­light.

Sul­phur par­ti­cles re­act with wa­ter mol­e­cules in the strato­sphere

at al­ti­tudes of 15-25 km. The re­ac­tion produces droplets of sul­phuric acid, some of which fall as acid rain, while oth­ers re­main in aerosol-form.

The aerosols ab­sorb so­lar en­ergy,

re­flect­ing the light back into space. The re­duced quan­tity of sun­light cools Earth's sur­face, and in some places, av­er­age tem­per­a­tures are re­duced by up to 17 de­grees.

Ash and ma­jor vol­canic frag­ments bury homes and traf­fic.

Elec­tric­ity and sew­er­age col­lapse, al­low­ing dis­ease to spread.

Sul­phur in the at­mos­phere makes the rain acid,

pol­lut­ing soil and wa­ter re­sources for 20-50 years. Ash, acid rain, and cold kill plants and an­i­mals, caus­ing all food pro­duc­tion to stop.

Fall­ing tem­per­a­tures spread to the oceans,

caus­ing the sea ice to spread and ocean cur­rents to slow. Cold, nu­tri­ent-rich bot­tom wa­ter no longer rises, and ocean food chains col­lapse.

P H IL I P E B O U R S EI LL E R / G ET T Y I M A G E S

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