, Volume 23, Issue 2-3, pp 231-246

The Risk of Large Volcanic Eruptions and the Impact of this Risk on Future Ozone Depletion

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Abstract

Ozone depletion at mid-latitudes is caused by reactivehalogens from man-made halocarbons. The stratosphericsulphate aerosol which follows large volcaniceruptions enhances (multiplies) this ozone depletion(it has no effect on ozone without halocarbons). Mid-latitude depletion almost doubled for the twoyears after Mt. Pinatubo. Although the MontrealProtocol is expected to reduce atmospheric amounts ofhalocarbons in the 21st century, stratospheric ozonewill be at risk of depletion enhancement by largeeruptions for the next 50 years. Mechanisms ofvolcanoes suggest that large eruptions are random andthat their global rate is constant for severalcenturies. Measurements of large eruptions during thelast 1000 years in ice cores have a remarkable fit toa Poisson distribution, reinforcing the conclusionthat the global incidence is random and at a constantrate for this period. From this rate, the probabilityof one or more eruptions with at least the ozone-lossenhancement of Pinatubo is 58 % in 50 years. Thisprobability is large enough to be of serious concernfor future mid-latitude ozone loss.