22 May 2023
 | 22 May 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Climate of the Past (CP).

State-dependent impact of major volcanic eruptions observed in ice-core records of the last glacial period

Johannes Lohmann, Jiamei Lin, Bo M. Vinther, Sune O. Rasmussen, and Anders Svensson

Abstract. Recently, a record of large, mostly unknown volcanic eruptions occurring during the younger half of the last glacial period (12–60 ka) has been compiled from ice-core records. In both Greenland and Antarctica these eruptions led to significant deposition of sulfate aerosols, which were likely transported in the stratosphere, thereby inducing a climate response. Here we report the first attempt to identify the climatic impact of volcanic eruptions in the last glacial period from ice cores. Average negative anomalies in high-resolution Greenland and Antarctic oxygen isotope records suggest a multi-annual volcanic cooling. Due to internal climate variability, glaciological noise, as well as uncertainties in the eruption age, the high-frequency noise level often exceeds the cooling induced by individual eruptions. Thus, cooling estimates for individual eruptions cannot be determined reliably. The average isotopic anomaly at the time of deposition also remains uncertain, since the signal degrades over time as a result of layer thinning and diffusion, which act to lower the resolution of both the oxygen isotope and sulfur records.

Regardless of these quantitative uncertainties, there is a clear relationship of the magnitude of isotopic anomaly and sulfur deposition. Further, the isotopic signal during the cold stadial periods is larger in Greenland and smaller in Antarctica than during the milder interstadial periods for eruptions of equal sulfur deposition magnitude. In contrast, the largest reductions in snow accumulation associated with the eruptions occur during the interstadial periods. This may be the result of a state-dependent climate sensitivity, but we cannot rule out that changes in the sensitivity of the isotope thermometer or in the radiative forcing of eruptions of a given sulfur ejection may play a role as well.

Johannes Lohmann et al.

Status: open (until 17 Jul 2023)

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Johannes Lohmann et al.

Johannes Lohmann et al.


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Short summary
We present the first attempt to constrain the climatic impact of volcanic eruptions with return periods of hundreds of years by the oxygen isotope records of Greenland and Antarctic ice cores covering the last glacial period. A clear multi-annual volcanic cooling signal is seen, but its absolute magnitude is subject to the unknown glacial sensitivity of the proxy. Different proxy signals after eruptions during cooler versus warmer glacial stages may reflect a state-dependent climate response.