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Geothermal heat and climate variability



Geothermal heat released through terrestrial and submarine volcanic eruptions is an underestimated cause of natural climate variability. Satellites since the early1980s and ARGO ocean profiling floats since the early 2000s are providing observational records that enable us to study the influence of geothermal heat on regional climate. Both warming and cooling of the atmosphere and the hydrosphere as well as severe weather events can be caused by volcanoes. Studies based on observational records have shown that the natural release of geothermal heat was an important contributor to recent climate change including the long-lasting 2014-2016 ENSO and Arctic sea ice variability during the past decade.
Geothermal heat
and climate variability
Wyss Yim
Association for Geoconservation, Hong Kong /
Climate Change Science Implementation Team,
UNESCO’s International Year of Planet Earth 2007-2009 /
Formerly HKU, CityUHK and CUHK
Presentation to the Environmental Division, Hong Kong Institution of Engineers on December 28, 2018. This research work is a contribution
to the Volcanic Impacts on Climate and Society Working Group of the Past Global Changes Project.
Assisted by MSc Earth Systems Science students,
Institute of Space & Earth Information Science,
Chinese University of Hong Kong
North Pacific Blob Chaitên 2008 Arctic sea ice Hunga 2014-5
2013-2015 and Calbuco 2015 2008-2017 eruption, Tonga
eruptions, Chile
Manuel Leung Kenneth To Alvin Wong Tina Yau
(1) Introduction
(2) Case study of the 2008 Chaitén terrestrial eruption, Chile
(3) Case study of the 10/2011-3/2012 El Hierro submarine
eruption, Canary Islands
(4) Case study of Pacific volcanism 2013-2015
(5) 2014-2016 ENSO and decadal Arctic sea ice variability
(6) Conclusions
What controls climate?
1st order
Solar heat variability and other astronomical forcing e.g.
glacial/interglacial cycles, monsoons and seasons
2nd order
Geothermal or volcanic heat/plate climatology (James Kamis 2014)
How geological forces affect the hydrosphere and atmosphere
including terrestrial and submarine volcanic eruptions, their
associated circulation changes and the release of methane and CO2
3rd order
Human-induced changes including heat generation, water cycle
changes and the emissions of greenhouse gases
Location map of Hong Kong Observatory Station, Pak Tam Chung Station,
Hong Kong International Airport Station and Waglan Island Station
* Best urban station and best rural station (Siu and Hart 2013)
+ Hong Kong
Airport Station
1997 –
+ Hong Kong
1884 –
+ Pak Tam Chung
Station* 1995 –
+ Waglan Island
Station 1952 –
5 km
Comparison of number of cold days <= 12oC each winter
HKO/HKIA/PTC/Waglan Island stations 1995-2017
1995 17 nd 81 9 2007 32 36 75 0
1996 7 nd 70 2 2008 14 20 62 15
1997 11 25 51 5 2009 23 26 52 3
1998 4 10 45 8 2010 26 37 73 8
1999 23 26 72 0 2011 23 29 65 10
2000 5 23 59 15 2012 8 14 45 8
2001 9 16 53 1 2013 25 31 53 2
2002 11 26 49 2 2014 11 12 68 12
2003 19 25 66 2 2015 22 25 47 21
2004 24 30 59 13 2016 7 8 40 7
2005 20 26 48 16 2017 22 24 56 24
2006 9 13 48 5
Based on HKO data
Comparison of cold day statistics at the HKO/HKIA/PTC
and Waglan Island stations during 1995-2017 winters
Characteristic Urban Airport Rural Maritime
Overall range 7 – 32 8 – 37 40 – 81 0 – 24
Annual mean 16.2 22.9 58.1 8.2
Based on HKO data
Problems with the interpretation
Source: Hong Kong Observatory
1966-1998 pause
1998-2015 pause
Krakatau 1883
Okataina 1886
Hudson 1991
El Chichōn 1982
Santa Maria
1912 Currently 1 out of 50 stations
Best explained by urban heat island effect
Mauna Loa solar radiation observations 1958-1994
cooling caused by major volcanic eruptions
Agung 1963
El Chichón
Highest SO2
Cerro Hudson
VEI – Volcanic explosivity index
Connection between the volcanic eruptions
and rainfall in Hong Kong
Agung 1963 VEI 4
El Chichón
1982 VEI 4
Cerro Hudson
1991 VEI 6
VEI – Volcanic explosivity index
Driest year
on record
11th driest
on record
2nd wettest
on record
Why study present day volcanic eruptions?
Most reliable record – Information
Importance – Societal relevance,
farming, climate model testing
( Aviation safety
( Meteorological observations
( Satellite observations since ~1980
( Media reports on climatic disasters
Eyjafjallajökull (E15)
April 14, 2010 eruption
NASA’s A-Train including CALIOP vertical profiles of aerosols
ARGO ocean network of profiling floats since early 2000s
Volcanic eruptions and their impacts
(1) Terrestrial / sub-aerial
-Switches on hot air initially followed by cooling
(injection of ash, gases and aerosols; blockage of
shortwave radiation; pressure changes; moisture
redistribution; continental cooling; ozone depletion;
circulation changes and severe weather events) lavas
entering ocean cause warming
(2) Submarine / sea floor
-Switches on hot seawater (ocean warming; pressure
changes; circulation changes; moisture redistribution;
continental warming and severe weather events)
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI)
Above VEI 2
regional impacts
on weather
may already be
Estimation of
of terrestrial
(Newhall and Self
Thermal plume
Cooler air
Warm air
stores more
moisture –
water vapour
Air pressure
changes (low)
Cool air
stores less
El Chichón, Mexico 1982
normal air
circulation /
creats clouds
/ destroys O3
Ash & aerosols
reduces solar
leading to
lasting if
SO2, HCl
& H2O
Submarine model*
* Initially submarine later sub-aerial
Examples studied –
El Hierro, Canary Islands
Hunga, Tonga*
Nishino-shima, Japan*
Action –
Switching on of hot seawater
causing circulation changes
(ocean, air including jet streams)
El Hierro
May 2, 2008 Chaitén eruption, Chile VEI = 4
Modis NASA
Identified regional impacts
on rainfall
- A wet May/June in South Africa
- A wet June in Australia including the continental
interiors causing the flood of tourists to watch
desert flowers blooming
- Record rainfall in western Tasmania
- Wettest June in Hong Kong since record began in
1884 (1346.1 mm or 346.8% above average including
an 1 in 1100 year rainstorm with record hourly
rainfall of 145.5 mm causing ~2400 landslides on
Lantau Island)
South African rainfall 11-31 May 2008
South African rainfall 1-20 June 2008
Comparison between average June rainfall with
June 2008 rainfall over Australia attributable to
the May 2, 2008 Chaitén eruption in Chile
(Zhang et al., 2016)
THE EXAMINER, Saturday, September 24, 2011
1 in 1100-year event causing ~2400 landslides on
Lantau Island alone (CEDD, HKSAR Government 2009)
Isoyhets in millimetres
Supporting evidence
-Eruption cloud height reached an altitude of over 21 km
penetrating the stratosphere
-CALIOP tracking of aerosols detectable over
Southeastern Australia caused international flight
cancellations first time around the globe
-Eruption timing during the southern hemisphere autumn
was favourable for aerosol transportation across the
ITCZ second time around the globe
-Volcanic debris impacted Hong Kong under southwest
monsoon condition
-E-folding time of 35 days found for SO2conversion into
sulphate from the study of the 1991 Pinatubo eruption
was nearly perfect for the June 7, 2008 rainstorm
The discoloured water was at least
20-30km wide and 100km long
Spread southward
Source: Luis Somoza et al. (2017)
Source: Eugenio et al. (2014)
El Hierro submarine eruption, Canary Islands
October 2011-March 2012
What was the observed climatic impact of the hot seawater
in the North Atlantic Basin overlooked by atmospheric scientists?
Brownish plume created
Source: Daily mail reporter
A new island emerged briefly from
the sea along the coast of Restinga,
Canary Islands
Source: Daily Mail
Combined effect of the sun and El Hierro on SST
on 28 June 2012
Greater warm seawater penetration
Date Affected region Events or pattern
April-July England and Wales Wettest summer in 100 years with annual rainfall of 1331 mm (115% above average)
and severe flooding
May-August Central North America Drought estimated damage US$30 billion; most severe since 1895
Summer Arctic Ocean Record low sea ice
Summer Northern/central Europe Abnormally wet summer with moisture able to penetrate the continental interiors
June-November US east coast Extremely active hurricane season, tied with 1887, 1995, 2010 and 2011 for having the
third-most named storms on record but few made landfall
July Virginia Hottest on record
July Greenland Period of extended surface melting across almost the entire ice sheet
July-October Western/central Africa Abnormally wet with flood conditions
October US east coast Hurricane Sandy estimated damage US$65billion; 147 fatalities
October North Atlantic Tropical storm Nadine tied record for the longest lasting Atlantic storm
November England Wettest week in last 50 years with severe flooding
Winter US east coast Abnormally cool and wet due to the active polar airstream
Winter British isles Abnormally cold due to the active polar airstream
Weather-related events or pattern in the North Atlantic Basin during 2012
Notable severe weather events in 2012
Hurricane Sandy October 2012
147 fatalities; estimated damage US$65 billion
New records for England & Wales –
wettest summer in 100 years
wettest week in last 50 years
explained by increase in storms
20-27 November
Tweets on flooding
Sea-surface temperature anomalies showing
the northern Pacific Blob on January 2, 2014
Pressure distribution during the North Pacific Blob
Stable high
ridge created
National Geographic September 2016
Mass mortality of red crabs Mass mortality of sea otters
Eel and prawn mortality
Subtropical sunfish migration
Squid migration with eggs
found as far north as Alaska
Humpback whales following anchovies Jellyfish mass mortality
Starving sea lion pups
Eruption of the Nishino-shima volcano
940 km south of Tokyo
March 2013* to August 2015
Image on November 13, 2013: Japan Coast Guard Image on December 8, 2013: NASA
* First indication of surface seawater warming over the location. The new volcanic
island was first observed in mid-November 2013.
Events linking the Blob with the Nishino-shima eruption
Date Nishinoshima eruption activity Northern Pacific Blob
November Eruption creates new island Initial Blob 800 km wide and 91 m deep
December Island rose 20 to 25 m above sea level with -
2013 an area of 5.6 km2
February - Temperature was around 2.5oC above normal
June 2014 - Name Blob coined by Nicholas Bond
Blob size reached 1600 km x 1600 km and 91 m deep
Spread to coastal North America with three patches
off Alaska, Victoria/California and Mexico
December Island nearly 2.3 km in diameter and 2014 year without winter western Pacific coast
2014 rose to about 110 m above sea level
January- Volcanic eruption continued with episodic -
August lava flows
Early - Blob persisted and ended
The Blob separated into three parts from Alaska to
Mexico on September 1, 2014
Ocean circulation
Warm water
build up in slack
areas of gyres
Nishino-shima volcano
940km south of Tokyo
Impact of the Blob on September 1, 2014
- nature’s way of neutralizing hot and cold
Contraction of Arctic sea ice
Expansion of Antarctic sea ice
Sea-surface temperature anomalies on
June 29, 2015 after the Wolf eruption ended
Wolf eruption
5-6/2015 with
lava flow entering
the ocean
Hunga eruption
Establishment of the strong and long-lasting 2014-
2016 El Niño on August 31, 2015
Influence of the North Pacific Blob on Arctic sea ice
Winter 2014-2016
Summer 2014-2016
Comparison of sea-level anomaly 1997 and 2015
Source: Jentoft-Nilsen (2015)
ENSO 2014-2016 was stronger because of the Blob
comparison of seawater temperature anomaly
Source: Tseng (2017)
Arctic sea ice extent comparison from
September 2008 to September 2016
Arctic sea ice changes 2007-2017
Explained by the release of geothermal heat through volcanism
El Hierro
Arctic sea ice extent 2007-2016
Source: National Snow & Ice Data Centre
Record minimum
Gradual decline
Ranking of Arctic monthly air temperatures 1979-2017
Polar bears are fine
Findings confirmed by project students
Manuel –
Contraction in Arctic sea ice during 2014-2016 was under the
influence of the North Pacific Blob
Kenneth –
Detectable levels of sulphur dioxide from Chilean VEI 4 eruptions are
transferred into the northern hemisphere by supercyclones
Alvin –
Arctic sea ice variability during the past decade is best explained by
the El Hierro eruption from 10/2011-3/2012 and the Nishino-shima
eruption from 3/2013-9/2015
Tina –
Hot surface seawater in the southwestern Pacific accounts for super
cyclone Pam, Great Barrier Reef bleaching and the Sydney storm of
April 2015
Recovery of Arctic sea ice during September 2017 and 2018
Summary table of NOAA’s ten globally hottest year and
their possible explanation
Rank Year Possible explanation .
1 2016 ENSO conditions and North Pacific Blob disippation
2 2015 ENSO conditions and North Pacific Blob
3 2017 Unrelated to ENSO
4 2014 ENSO conditions and North Pacific Blob
5 2010 -
6 2005 -
7 2013 Nishino-shima eruption causing North Pacific warming 3/2013-8/2015
8 2009 -
9 1998 ENSO conditions
10 2007 - .
(1) Both sub-aerial and submarine volcanic eruptions are underestimated natural
causes of climatic variability.
(2) The study of observational records has revealed a connection between some
extreme weather events and volcanic eruptions.
(3) Water vapour/cloud distribution in the atmosphere is much more important than
carbon dioxide in climatic variability.
(4) Possible contributors to the strong and long-lasting 2014-2016 ENSO include the
Nishino-shima eruption during March 2013 to August 2015, the Hunga eruption
during December 2014 to January 2015 and the Wolf eruption during May to
June 2015.
(5) Climatic models can be improved by taking into account the impact of multiple
volcanic eruptions on circulation changes.
(6) The missing heat attributed to carbon dioxide storage in oceans is better
explained by geothermal heat released through submarine volcanism.
Thank you
May 23, 2006 Cleveland, Aleutian islands
Volcanic eruptions are
natural experiments
for us to learn from
Hong Kong Observatory, NASA, NOAA and Wikipedia.
Full-text available
This work is easily summarised in plain English. It quantitifies the reality of long term global climate change and the dominant ice age cycle as being driven by variable heating of the oceans by magma, with the 100Ka peak the cause of the reliable 7Ka interglacial events. The key point is that magma delivers climate change, the atmosphere maintains the stable varying equilibirum against short term perturbation from "events", and does not cause change, as the record also shows. - Volcanoes cause climate change and interglacials, not vice versa. - The actual cause of variable volcanism is the theoretical bit, I suggest mechanical stress in the crust from a combination of all three Milankovith motions. Planetary twerking induced by a constantly oscillating mantle under the wafer thin oceanic crust. Simples! Challenges to this approach and the mathematics applied to the basic data using physics 101 are welcome, indeed sought. Because this is self evidently not part of the "academic consensus" , and IS supported by empirical data and basic physics. No models or statistical manipulations were used in the creation of this paper, just basic physics and observational data. All challenges on these physics and/or facts welcome. Enjoy!
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