A volcanic winter is a climate cooling caused by an extremely large volcanic eruption. Such an eruption releases ash and sulfur dioxide in huge quantities. They form aerosols of sulfuric acid. When they reach the stratosphere more sunlight is reflected, and some is absorbed by the stratosphere. These reactions heat up the stratosphere, but lead to a drop in the temperature on the ground.
The Siberian Traps, Emeishan Traps, and Deccan Traps are huge flood basalt provinces caused by volcanism. They are the cause, or part of the cause, of several mass extinctions, especially the Permian–Triassic extinction event.
The effects of recent volcanic eruptions on winters are modest in scale but historically their effects have been significant.
In 1883, the explosion of Krakatoa (Krakatau) created volcanic winter-like conditions. The next four years after the explosion were unusually cold, and the winter of 1887 to 1888 included powerful blizzards. Record snowfalls were recorded worldwide.
The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, a stratovolcano in Indonesia, occasioned mid-summer frosts in New York State and June snowfalls in New England and Newfoundland and Labrador in what came to be known as the "Year without a Summer" of 1816.
A paper written by Benjamin Franklin in 1783[source?] blamed the unusually cool summer of 1783 on volcanic dust coming from Iceland, where the eruption of Laki volcano had released enormous amounts of sulfur dioxide, resulting in the death of much of the island's livestock and a catastrophic famine which killed a quarter of the population. Temperatures in the northern hemisphere dropped by about 1 °C in the year following the Laki eruption.
In 1600, the Huaynaputina in Peru erupted. Tree ring studies show that 1601 was cold. Russia had its worst famine in 1601 to 1603. From 1600 to 1602, Switzerland, Latvia and Estonia had exceptionally cold winters. The wine harvest was late in 1601 in France, and in Peru and Germany wine production collapsed. Peach trees bloomed late in China, and Lake Suwa in Japan froze early.
- Brohan P. et al. (2006). "Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observed temperature changes: a new dataset from 1850". J. Geophysical Research 111: D12106. doi:10.1029/2005JD006548.
- University of Minnesota. "With a bang: not a whimper". http://climate.umn.edu/pdf/mn_winter_1887-1888.pdf.
- University of California - Davis (2008, April 25). "Volcanic eruption Of 1600 caused global disruption". ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080423135236.htm.
- Cantor, Norman L. (2001). In the wake of the plague: the Black Death and the world it made. New York: Free Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-684-85735-9.
- Nairn I.A. et al. (2004). "Rhyolite magma processes of the ~AD 1315 Kaharoa eruption episode, Tarawera volcano, New Zealand". Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 131 (3–4): 265–94. doi:10.1016/S0377-0273(03)00381-0.
Hodgson K.A. & Nairn I.A. (September 2005). "The c. AD 1315 syn-eruption and AD 1904 post-eruption breakout floods from Lake Tarawera, Haroharo caldera, North Island, New Zealand". New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 48 (3): 491. doi:10.1080/00288306.2005.9515128.