Earth System Feedbacks In Response To Volcanism

1592 words - 7 pages

The Earth system consists of the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, and can be regarded as a large-scale example of Le Chatelier's Principle where systemic perturbations are mitigated through complex feedbacks to eventually establish an amended equilibrium. The geosphere impacts the other spheres as it regulates uniformitarianism through volcanism, while also providing the physical interface between the lithosphere and organic subaerial constituents of the earth system in the form of regolith; thereby facilitating biotic subsistence and terrestrial feedback. Considering spatiotemporal impacts of volcanism are inherently interconnected concerning volcanism, a temporal scale ...view middle of the document...

Moreover, pyroclastic incendiaries can destroy flora, which reduces habitat and the capacity of terrestrial carbon sequestration. Subsequently, vegetation removal leads to excessive sediment flux through increased rill, gully and sheetwash erosion, further altering the local hydrogeomorphology. Furthermore, large geospheric flow events (lahars, pyroclastic flows, lava flows etc.) have the ability to remove watershed divides and obstruct alluvial systems, consequently providing the catalyst for debris flows and channel avulsion (8). Likewise, volcanogenic tsunamis can be instigated when submarine eruptions, flows, or volcanic bombs impact large water bodies initiating biodiversity reduction through habitat destruction, salinization and the introduction of invasive species (14). In the oceans, iron-rich deposits create chlorophyll anomalies, the proxy for phytoplankton abundance, which generate prodigious blooms; thus enhancing biological production, while offsetting atmospheric carbon saturation (9). Soils are also enriched by aeolian-dispersed nutrients over short time frames.

Sustained degassing of fine sulphate matter has proven to have temporally minute, yet spatially vast effects upon the Earths’ latent heat flux through limiting the solar energy budget, which intrinsically weakens endothermic evaporation. A sea surface temperature reduction equates to lower evaporation, therefore catchment influx is disrupted, and alluvial velocity is reduced creating dynamic consequences for the geosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere respectively. Sediment aggradation may result from waning flows, which forces the mass balance between sediment deposition and entrained clasts into disequilibrium. Secondly, lowering the groundwater table through reduced precipitation depletes aquifers, placing stress on the hydrosphere and biosphere collectively. Moreover, the inability of waning flows to dilute nutrients and provide habitat for riparian and aquatic fauna is acutely compromised.

The most expansive temporal impacts (>1 year) from cataclysmic explosive eruptions result via the conversion of sulfur dioxide (SO2) to sulfuric acid (H2SO4), which condense to form fine sulfate aerosols that alter the optical depth of the stratosphere (3). Applicable magmas originate from plinian-style eruptions, and are often of andesitic to dacitic composition, as the more viscous, silica-rich, rhyolitic magmas have higher explosivity, yet a lower gas content (4). Elucidating the relationship between dynamic climatological variances, the quantity and composition of volcanic ejecta, and the radiation budget may clarify climatic forcing.

It is presumed that large ejected particles accommodate shortwave radiation while trapping longwave radiation resulting in tropospheric warming. Conversely, particles finer than approximately two microns inhibit incoming solar radiation resulting in volcanic winters and an icehouse effect (5). Mount Pinatubo is an example that...

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