Washington: A new research has suggested that small volcanic eruptions may have contributed to the recent slowdown in global warming over the past 15 years.
Scientists have long known that volcanoes can cool the atmosphere, mainly by means of sulfur dioxide gas that eruptions expel and droplets of sulfuric acid that form when the gas combines with oxygen in the upper atmosphere can remain for many months, reflecting sunlight away from Earth and lowering temperatures.
The study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge shows that small volcanic eruptions that occurred between 2000 and 2013 have deflected almost double the amount of solar radiation previously estimated.
By knocking incoming solar energy back out into space, sulfuric acid particles from these recent eruptions could be responsible for decreasing global temperatures by 0.05 to 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.09 to 0.22 degrees Fahrenheit) since 2000.
Climate projections typically don't include the effect of volcanic eruptions, as these events are nearly impossible to predict, according to Alan Robock, a climatologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who was not involved in the study.
According to lead author David Ridley, the prediction of global temperature from the latest models indicated continuing strong warming post-2000, when in reality the rate of warming has slowed.
Robock said the new research, which provides evidence that there may be more aerosols in the atmosphere than previously thought, is part of the story about what has been driving climate change for the past 15 years.
The study is published in a journal of the American Geophysical Union.