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Volcano could cool climate, reduce ozone.

The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo could chill the Earth slightly for the next few years and hasten the destruction of the ozone layer over large portions of the world, say scientists who are tracking the volcanic gas cloud as it spreads westward from the Philippines.

Satellite date indicate the June 15 blast lofted 15 to 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, making this possibly the largest volcanic eruption of the century, says Arlin Krueger of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The satellite image shown here, taken on June 18, shows the early growth of the sulfur dioxide cloud, which appears in white.

Sulfur dioxide gas joins with water vapor in the atmosphere to form tiny droplets of sulfuric acid, which can remain aloft for several years after an eruption. By reflecting sunlight back into space, the droplets exert a cooling influence, which could temporarily counteract the warning effects of increasing greenhouse gases. The 1982 eruption of Mexico's El Chichon depressed global temperatures by 0.2[degrees]C to 0.3[degrees]C, and Pinatubo could have an even greater effect, says Alan Robock of the Univeristy of Maryland in College Park.

El Chichon data also indicate that sulfuric acid from volcanoes can accelerate stratospheric-ozone destruction in the polar regions and midlatitudes.
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Title Annotation:Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 6, 1991
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