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The Atmospheric Impact of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo EruptionThe 1991 eruption of Pinatubo produced about 5 cubic kilometers of dacitic magma and may be the second largest volcanic eruption of the century. Eruption columns reached 40 kilometers in altitude and emplaced a giant umbrella cloud in the middle to lower stratosphere that injected about 17 megatons of SO2, slightly more than twice the largest yielded by the 1982 eruption of El Chichon, Mexico. The SO2 formed sulfate aerosols that produced the largest perturbation to the stratospheric aerosol layer since the eruption of Krakatau in 1883. The aerosol cloud spread rapidly around the Earth in about 3 weeks and attained global coverage by about 1 year after the eruption. Peak local midvisible optical depths of up to 0.4 were measured in late 1992, and globally averaged values were about 0.1 to 0.15 for 2 years. The large aerosol cloud caused dramatic decreases in the amount of net radiation reaching the Earth's surface, producing a climate forcing that was two times stronger than the aerosols of El Chichon. Effects on climate were an observed surface cooling in the northern hemisphere of up to 0.5 to 0.6 C, equivalent to a hemispheric-wide reduction in net radiation of 4 watts per square meter and a cooling of perhaps as large as -0.4 C over large parts of the earth in 1992-93. Climate models seem to have predicted the cooling with a reasonable degree of accuracy. The Pinatubo climate forcing was stronger than the opposite warming of either the El Nino event or anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the period 1991-93. As a result of the presence of the aerosol particles, midlatitude ozone concentrations reached their lowest levels on record during 1992-93, the southern hemisphere 'ozone hole' increased in 1992 to an unprecedented size and ozone depletion rates were observed to be faster than ever before recorded. The atmospheric impact of the Pinatubo eruption has been profound, and it has sparked a lively interest in the role that volcanic aerosols play in climate change. This event has shown that a powerful eruption providing a 15 to 20 megaton release of SO2 into the stratosphere can produce sufficient aerosols to offset the present global warming trends and severely impact the ozone budget.
Document ID
Document Type
Contractor Report (CR)
Self, Stephen (Hawaii Univ. Honolulu, HI United States)
Zhao, Jing-Xia (Hawaii Univ. Manoa, HI United States)
Holasek, Rick E. (Hawaii Univ. Honolulu, HI United States)
Torres, Ronnie C. (Hawaii Univ. Honolulu, HI United States)
King, Alan J. (Hawaii Univ. Honolulu, HI United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1993
Subject Category
Environment Pollution
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.26:207274
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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