Contact US

Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Students Click Here

Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

I've been looking for a week for an estimate of how much greenhouse gas has been put into the ecosystem by the Iceland Volcano.  Anyone seen an estimate?  I'm betting it is a number in excess of all the CO2 that people have put into the air since we slithered from the primordial ooze.  So you wreck economies to reduce our contribution and a single fairly small volcano puts more stuff in the air the man ever has.  I think Iceland should pay the world a Cap and Trade fee.


RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Haven't seen anything solid, nor will we, but they are saying that we cut CO2 by grounding the planes.  They say that it wasn't releasing much CO2 but it was dumping tons of other gasses.  I wouldn't believe any of them, tbh.

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

i didn't think volcanos pushed out much CO2, but SO2 and lots of particulate ...

i predict "it's worst than previously thought ..."

but i agree with the OP ... volcano farts are more significant than anything we do ...

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases


I read it's between 150,000 and 300,000 tons of CO2 per day.

Trying to find the article.


RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Yup to Kenat.  Google Mt. Pinatubo, Mt St Helens.

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Well, according to New Scientist, who have definitely swallowed the Kool Aid and are handing it out to passer's by, volcanoes aren't a very significant source of CO2 http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11638

"Fossil fuels also contain less carbon-13 than carbon-12, compared with the atmosphere, because the fuels derive from plants, which preferentially take up the more common carbon-12. The ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12 in the atmosphere and ocean surface waters is steadily falling, showing that more carbon-12 is entering the atmosphere.

Finally, claims that volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities are simply not true. In the very distant past, there have been volcanic eruptions so massive that they covered vast areas in lava more than a kilometre thick and appear to have released enough CO2 to warm the planet after the initial cooling caused by the dust (see Wipeout). But even with such gigantic eruptions, most of subsequent warming may have been due to methane released when lava heated coal deposits, rather than from CO2 from the volcanoes (see also Did the North Atlantic's 'birth' warm the world?).

Measurements of CO2 levels over the past 50 years do not show any significant rises after eruptions. Total emissions from volcanoes on land are estimated to average just 0.3 Gt of CO2 each year - about a hundredth of human emissions (pdf document).

While volcanic emissions are negligible in the short term, over tens of millions of years they do release massive quantities of CO2. But they are balanced by the loss of carbon in ocean sediments subducted under continents through tectonic plate movements. Ultimately, this carbon will be returned to the atmosphere by volcanoes."

Note assorted irrelevancies, weasel words and straw men.

http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/2007/07_02_15.html actually includes some numbers. Looks like volcanoes aren't huge emitters.



Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies  http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

So I understand from this that the carbon cycle is self regulating, and what we do as humans dosen't matter.


RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Earth big.  Humans small.  In geological time, humans are a rash on the skin of the Earth.

- Steve

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Some of the quotes seem a bit disingenous.  One quote above is that most of the gas given off is methane from heating coal.  When I've done emissions calcs, one tonne of methane counted the same as 36 tonnes (I beleive, I'm not somewhere that I have my files) of CO2.  So if the volcano dummped 300,000 tonnes of CO2, and that is a "tiny part", the the methane must be at least an order of magnitude more, and a 36:1 3,000,000 tonnes of methane is charged out in Cap and Tax as 108,000,000 tonnes of CO2 equivilant.  Not a small number.


RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

So much for natural gas being greener than coal.

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Nomlaser,most of the comment I have seen simply pointed to the reduction in anthropogenic CO2. These comments did not mention any CO2 from the volcano at all.
In fact most volcanoes usually put out lots of steam. It is how we are supposed to have gotten our oceans in the first place. Water vapour does far more for warming that CO2 but we also get particulates which act as global chilling agents. The most significant question is how much Sulphur?



RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

cranky, the carbon cycle is self-regulating on the geological timescale, but we don't live on the geological timescale.  The transient response may do us in, and we cannot be sure that the "regulated" level will continue to favour humans and the way we live currently.

As to the initial basic question, we've been directly measuring atmospheric CO2 concentrations for the past hundred years or so, and VERY accurately for the past sixty or seventy.  We also have plenty of inferential evidence of past CO2 concentrations, though these are clearly less reliable they cannot be discounted completely.  

Even giant eruptions such as Pinatubo or Mt. St. Hellens in the past sixty years didn't amount to more than a blip on the overwhelming atmospheric concentration rise trend.  

The assertion that a single rather minor eruption such as the one in Iceland resulted in more CO2 emission than humans have generated since they started burning fossil fuels is patently and demonstrably false.  We may be puny humans but we manage to pull ENORMOUS amounts of fossil carbon out of the earth and dump it into the atmosphere every single day, and have been doing so with gusto since the 1850s.  That we are dependent on nature for our continued existence is incontrovertible fact, but to assume that therefore we are too puny to impact the Earth in any measurable way is hubris to the extreme.

We can debate whether or not that CO2 will have a profound effect on the earth's climate, whether its correlation with planetary mean surface temperature is strong or weak etc.,  but the fact of the atmospheric CO2 concentration rise and its human origin is not debatable- it's proven fact.

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Yeah, they proved it in East Anglica University, NASA, and a dozen other places that have admited to making up a substantial portion of their data.


RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Molten metal, I think you miss the point.
The question was whether grounding all those planes actually saved more CO2 than the volcano emitted.



RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Quote but the fact of the atmospheric CO2 concentration rise and its human origin is not debatable- it's proven fact.

No it isn't - just repeating the same old line over and over again and producing a raft of dodgy data doesn't make it a fact.

I respect your right to have a view but please, don't take the religious angle and force your beliefs on me as fact

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

I'm sorry if the fact doesn't match your perceptions or wishes, but the atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been MEASURED, not inferred, for the past 60+ years.  The data from these direct atmospheric composition measurements is not in dispute, unlike the many inferential or indirect measurements used to come up with numbers for the very distant past.


That's just a convenient link- you can go look up the source data if you don't believe it, or want to see the 1958+ direct measurements in isolation from the ice core gas data going back in time (for which they have overlapping data dating to 1977 which seems to correlate extremely well I might add).

"Molten metal, I think you miss the point.The question was whether grounding all those planes actually saved more CO2 than the volcano emitted."

No, sorry, I don't think I missed the point at all, and I don't believe that was it.  zdas04 was the OP and stated, in relation to the Icelandic volcano's recent eruption's GHG emissions:  "I'm betting it is a number in excess of all the CO2 that people have put into the air since we slithered from the primordial ooze."  This assertion is patently and demonstrably false and I called him on it.  The falseness of the statement is evident from the complete ABSENSE of any significant deviation from the unmistakeable rise trend in the DIRECTLY MEASURED CO2 concentrations taken since 1958, even from huge eruptions like Pinatubo or Mt. St. Hellens.

You can be skeptical of whether or not CO2 leads to global warming, whether or not global warming is happening now or will ever happen, and I can have a modicum of respect for that position though I do not share it.  But denying the CO2 rise or mis-attributing it to "natural" causes like vulcanism is not a position I can respect whatsoever.


RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

TPL:  I am sorry but moltenmetal is correct.  He is not trying to debate global warming here, he is only stating that CO2 emissions have gone up.  NASA has a lot of information on this.  It is a fact.

Why you would mention religion is beyond me.  This forum is for technically minded people who respect FACT and DATA.  What does religion have to do with anything?  You can accept the facts or reject them as you please, but it does not make them simply go away.


RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

I believe what should be clarified is that there are legions of people who do not accept the hypothesis of CO2 being the culprit of so-called global warming, or that global warming is anything but a natural cyclical event, unrelated to whether or not humans even factor into the equation.  I would dare say that those in the Al Gore camp and others of his ilk are, indeed, religious in their belief of the aforementioned, signified by the vigor with which which they promote it.  Belief, after all, is religion, and there are no facts to prove or disprove that man has anything to do with this much ado (about nothing :>).  Believe what you want to believe, the jury is still out, and is likely to be out for quite some time.


RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

I just love these arguments without plausible cause.  


RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

This is the way the scientific method is supposed to work:

Observation 1 - atmospheric levels of CO2 have increased since 1850

Observation 2 - we've been burning a lot of fossil fuels and making a lot of concrete since 1850

Hypothesis 1  - the increase in CO2 is primarily due to burning fossil fuels and cement production

Hypothesis 2 - the increase in CO2 is primarily due to other causes.

A real scientist would then construct a test which robustly validates 1 or 2. Has this been published?

Note this doesn't need climate models, or computers, or tree rings as surrogates for thermometers. It is fundamental to the worry wart's argument. Anthropogenic carbon is about 3.4% of the total carbon in the natural carbon cycle, and the only study of the carbon cycle I've seen suggests that if the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere increases by 50%, so do the recycling processes, as one would expect from a typical chemical reaction.

It is also worth pointing out the atmospheric CO2 is currently rising from a very low base, and is yet to hit the recent peak achieved in 500 AD (pine needles measurement, Kouwenberg 2005).  


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies  http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Excellent post Greg, thanks.

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

You have a huge and reasonably well quantifiable source of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere from the fossil carbon we've been burning, the forests we've been burning, the carbonaceous rocks we've been calcining etc.  The CO2 emission rate and the atmospheric CO2 concentration correlate in both time and magnitude in lock-step.  While you are correct that correlation alone is NOT proof of causality, one can do estimates of CO2 emission and absorption rates, and the volume of the atmosphere is relatively easy to estimate.  

We may be "puny humans", but we have emitted PLENTY enough fossil carbon to explain these measured atmospheric carbon concentration increases, so a simple mass balance on carbon emissions doesn't disprove the anthropogenic origin hypothesis.

Your suggestion is that "something else (of natural origin)" is responsible for this trend, and that the lock-step correlation between anthropogenic CO2 emissions and atmospheric CO2 measurements is mere coincidence.  Vulcanism is clearly NOT supported as the "something else" (that hasn't stopped numerous people from repeating this false assertion).  Do you have other hypotheses to suggest, something more specific than merely "something else"?  Otherwise, the way the scientific method works is that the hypothesis which best explains the measurements we have now is the one we continue to test alternative hypotheses AGAINST.  Lacking multiple-twin Earths and an accelerated timescale to do controlled experiments on, we have a somewhat limited ability to test hypotheses to the satisfaction of all.  

That anthropogenic carbon is "only 3.4% of the total carbon in the natural carbon cycle" is irrelevant.  I've seen credible estimates for the half life of atmospheric CO2 of ~ 100 years, since the natural carbon balance equilibria are chemical and biological rather than physical (i.e. such as simple dissolution).  Input minus output equals accumulation- only the DIFFERENCE between the two rates matters.

What the historical CO2 concentrations were over a thousand years back are at least as uncertain as the temperature data so often disputed by the AGW denial crowd.  That there have been in past natural variations in CO2 concentrations does not in and of itself invalidate the hypothesis that this recent rise is man-made.

Again, you can deny the linkage between CO2 and damaging global temperature increase and have at least some credibility in my books.  I don't share that opinion nor do I feel that we need hard proof of this probable harm to justify significant efforts and cost to curb our squandering of fossil fuels.  But denial of the highly probable human causes of MEASURED atmospheric CO2 concentration are NOT credible and do not befit a forum of engineers in my opinion.  

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

FWIW I favour not burning fossil fuels, and I think that there is a reasonable chance that anthropogenic CO2 production is a significant contributor to atmospheric CO2 levels, the numbers seem to be at least of the same order.

But what I 'think' has no effect on the world. If I wish to persuade other people to reduce CO2 emissions then the program I suggested above is an essential step.

Have these calculations or measurements been done and proved to be robust?

There also seems to be a problem of interpretation.

The atmospheric component of the carbon cycle is X tonnes/year. The total atmospheric CO2 content is Y tonnes. Therefore the mean life of CO2 in the atmosphere is Z years.

Z=Y/X Not a hard sum to do.

According to Nasa
X=121.3 GT/y
Y=750 GT

So Z is 6 years. Hard to reconcile that with a half life of 100.

In 150 years, if those figures were unchanged, we'd have added 150*5.5=800 GT to the atmosphere, doubling the concentration. In fact the concentration has increased by 50%, which is what I meant by the 'same order' above.

At the same time, we know that the current CO2 levels are extremely low, and that historically thay have gone up and down by far more without our involvement.



Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies  http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

I've heard the volcano eruption will block sunlight and cool the world. So if this is true, and the CO2 somehow, by miracle, is not generated in a volcanic eruption then why worry.
Now that the US coast guard is going to set the Gulf of Mexico on fire (or so I've heard), there should be enough CO2 going around to balance things out.
In any event, I wish I could watch the Gulf going on fire!

<<A good friend will bail you out of jail, but a true friend
will be sitting beside you saying " Damn that was fun!" - Unknown>>

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

Thanks to GregLocock, moltenmetal, and others for these helpful posts. I have been pondering the problems of measuring the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and the temperature of the atmosphere. Since the atmosphere seems to be spending a fair bit of energy mixing itself, judging by the bumpy ride I had yesterday across North America, I suppose the CO2 concentration readings that we get are fairly similar to each other and averaging them some way probably produces a fairly representative result. Conversely the atmosphere seems to be constantly sorting itself into areas of high and low temperature. This must make it very difficult to determine a useful average temperature or a total heat content. So I do believe that we moved the CO2 up a bit, but I am not at all certain that the temperature is going up, and even if it is, I am not sure that we did it.

HAZOP at www.curryhydrocarbons.ca

RE: Recent Volcano Greenhouse Gases

If my recollection of my geology courses is correct, the amount of CO2 from the Icelandic volcanoes would not be significant.  These volcanoes are located at divergent plate boundaries where simple magma is rising to the surface due to parting of the mid atlantic ridge.

When volcanoes like Mt. St. Hellens erupt, the eruptions are violent and filled with gasses.  These gasses come from the fact that the plate boundaries are convergent and the calcium carbonates(coral) become part of the magma pool.

my 2 cents

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members! Already a Member? Login


Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close