10 Jan 2022

10 Jan 2022

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Volcanic stratospheric sulfur injections and aerosol optical depth during the Holocene (past 11,500 years) from a bipolar ice core array

Michael Sigl1,2, Matthew Toohey3, Joseph R. McConnell4, Jihong Cole-Dai5, and Mirko Severi6 Michael Sigl et al.
  • 1Department of Climate and Environmental Physics, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies, Department of Physics & Engineering Physics, University of Saskatchewan, S7N 5A2 Saskatoon, Canada
  • 4Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, 89512 Reno, Nevada, USA
  • 5Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, South Dakota State University, 57007 Brookings, South Dakota, USA
  • 6Department of Chemistry “Ugo Schiff”, University of Florence, 50019 Florence, Italy

Abstract. The injection of sulfur into the stratosphere by volcanic eruptions is the dominant driver of natural climate variability on interannual-to-multidecadal timescales. Based on a set of continuous sulfate and sulfur records from a suite of ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, the HolVol v.1.0 database includes estimates of the magnitudes and approximate source latitudes of major volcanic stratospheric sulfur injection (VSSI) events for the Holocene (from 9500 BCE or 11500 year BP to 1900 CE), constituting an extension of the previous record by 7000 years. The database incorporates new-generation ice-core aerosol records with sub-annual temporal resolution and demonstrated sub-decadal dating accuracy and precision. By tightly aligning and stacking the ice-core records on the WD2014 chronology from Antarctica we resolve long-standing previous inconsistencies in the dating of ancient volcanic eruptions that arise from biased (i.e. dated too old) ice-core chronologies over the Holocene for Greenland. We reconstruct a total of 850 volcanic eruptions with injections in excess of 1 TgS, of which 329 (39 %) are located in the low latitudes with bipolar sulfate deposition, 426 (50 %) are located in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropics and 88 (10 %) are located in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) extratropics. The spatial distribution of reconstructed eruption locations is in agreement with prior reconstructions for the past 2,500 years, and follows the global distribution of landmasses. In total, these eruptions injected 7410 TgS in the stratosphere, for which tropical eruptions accounted for 70 % and NH extratropics for 25 %. A long-term latitudinally and monthly resolved stratospheric aerosol optical depth (SAOD) time series is reconstructed from the HolVol VSSI estimates, representing the first Holocene-scale reconstruction constrained by Greenland and Antarctica ice cores. These new long-term reconstructions of past VSSI and SAOD variability confirm evidence from regional volcanic eruption chronologies (e.g., from Iceland) in showing that the early Holocene (9500–7000 BCE) experienced a higher number of volcanic eruptions (+16 %) and cumulative VSSI (+86 %) compared to the past 2,500 years. This increase coincides with the rapid retreat of ice sheets during deglaciation, providing context for potential future increases of volcanic activity in regions under projected glacier melting in the 21st century. The reconstructed VSSI and SAOD data are available at (Sigl et al., 2021).

Michael Sigl et al.

Status: open (until 07 Mar 2022)

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Michael Sigl et al.

Data sets

HolVol: Reconstructed volcanic stratospheric sulfur injections and aerosol optical depth for the Holocene (9500 BCE to 1900 CE). PANGAEA, 2021 Sigl, Michael; Toohey, Matthew; McConnell, Joseph R; Cole-Dai, Jihong; Severi, Mirko

Michael Sigl et al.


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Short summary
Volcanism is a key driver of climate. Based on ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, we reconstruct its climate impact potential over the Holocene. By aligning records on a well-dated chronology from Antarctica we resolve long-standing inconsistencies in the dating of past volcanic eruptions. We reconstruct 850 eruptions which in total injected 7410 Tg of sulfur in the stratosphere and estimate how these changed the opacity of the atmosphere, a prerequisite for climate model simulations.