Iceland's Volcanoes And Climate Change

by tristero

I've been wondering whether there might might be some kind of link between volcanic eruptions in Iceland and global warming. Apparently not. Yet.
They said there was no sign that the current eruption from below the Eyjafjallajokull glacier that has paralysed flights over northern Europe was linked to global warming. The glacier is too small and light to affect local geology.

"Our work suggests that eventually there will be either somewhat larger eruptions or more frequent eruptions in Iceland in coming decades," said Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a vulcanologist at the University of Iceland.

"Global warming melts ice and this can influence magmatic systems," he told Reuters. The end of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago coincided with a surge in volcanic activity in Iceland, apparently because huge ice caps thinned and the land rose.

"We believe the reduction of ice has not been important in triggering this latest eruption," he said of Eyjafjallajokull. "The eruption is happening under a relatively small ice cap."

Carolina Pagli, a geophysicist at the University of Leeds in England, said there were risks that climate change could also trigger volcanic eruptions or earthquakes in places such as Mount Erebus in Antarctica, the Aleutian islands of Alaska or Patagonia in South America.
Yeah, but wadda they know? Check out the comments. There you'll find the truth! That's because people who took some high school chemistry once are much better able to evaluate complex problems in geology, climatology, and meteorology than scientists who have devoted their entire lives to studying the science.

(This post is dedicated to my friends JB, JS, and BM, volcanoed in London, London, and Amsterdam, respectively. See you all soon, I hope!)

UPDATE: Very cool shots of volcanoes from around the world set to Hekla, by Jón Leifs:

h/t The great Alex Ross.

UPDATE: This link provides a somewhat different set of insights into the science:
the key to this problem (in my mind) isn't melting point but rather the volatiles dissolved in the magma. Most magmas can dissolve more volatiles (from the source of the magma, not a surface source of water) under high pressure than low pressure. If you release that pressure, then the volatiles escape in the form of bubbles and you can get an explosive eruption (like popping the top of shaken soda can). If you happen to have shallow magma chambers with volatiles near the surface and deglaciate (remove the ice), you might be prompt a reaction of the volatiles (gases) coming out of solution with the magma. Now, if you combine that with even a small amount of additional melting from lower pressures brought by deglaciation, then, maybe you could produce a temporary, larger supply of eruptible magma. Magma does not need external water to produce explosive eruptions (such as an ice cap/glacier) - and it seems that the current eruption is silicic enough to produce its own explosivity due to its viscosity and water content - so the lack of an ice cap should not preclude more explosive eruptions in Iceland.
Klemetti goes on:
Now, this is all just speculation on my part and I'm not trying to connect it to global warming, global cooling or the Red Sox subpar start to the season. However, what I can say is that we need to stop trying to look at every study with the lens of climate change - and especially stop treating each side of the issue as adversaries if you don't agree with them. Science is about discussion not confrontation, but a lot of this debate becomes "Jeez, the other guys are idiots because they don't agree with me!" A little civility and open-mindedness goes a long way.
Sorry, Dr. Klemetti, but you share the naive attitude of many scientists who have failed to follow carefully the cultural war about evolution. You should read the comments to the previous link. The rightwing insists on confrontation instead of discussion. It's not going to change until all us, scientists included, are prepared to be confrontational right back and push them to the margins of public discourse, where they clearly belong.

Eventually, you will have to be confrontational if you wish to preserve truly independent inquiry within your discipline. You might as well start now as it will be much easier.

h/t shirt in comments