The relationship between volcanic eruptions and climate change: Still a conundrum?



What is the relationship between volcanic eruptions and climate change? More than 200 years after the connection was first proposed, it remains a thorny question. This article provides a brief historical overview of the problem and a review of the various data bases used in evaluating volcanic events and associated climatic change. We use the term “climate” to describe changes in the atmosphere over wide regions for periods of several months and longer. We use “weather” to describe shorter-term, variable atmospheric fluctuations experienced over more restricted areas. We appraise the present state of knowledge and highlight some pitfalls involved in using available information. Cautiously, we suggest future avenues for study, including the possibility of “volcanic winters,” or severe eruption-induced coolings.