El Niño Responses to Volcanoes

Eugene S. Takle
© 2003

Massive volcanic eruptions launch copious amounts of sulfate and other gases into the atmosphere that eventually are converted to particulates that encircle the globe and lead to global cooling before slowly drifting back to the earth's surface over a period of a couple of years. A more intriguing and controversial impact of volcanoes is their possible regulation of El Niño events. Adams et al. (2003) report correlations between enhanced El Niño activity and recent volcanoes by examining proxy evidenced over a 350 year record. Their results imply roughly a doubling of the probability of an El Niño event occurring in the winter following a volcanic eruption, and that even in year 2 and 3 after such events, El Niños might be more likely. In years 4, 5, and 6 following eruption, La Niña conditions are favored. De Silva (2003) provides a very readable summary of the Adams et al. (2003) results.


Adams, J.B., M.E. Mann, and C.M. Ammann, 2003: Proxy evidenced for an El Niño-like response to volcanic forcing. Nature, 426, 274-278.

de Silva, S., 2003: Eruptions linked to El Niño. Nature, 426, 239-240.