<p>Turbulent volcanic plumes disperse fine ash particles and toxic gases in the atmosphere and can lead to significant temperature drops in the atmosphere. In the geological past, the emplacement of large continental flood basalts (CFB) has been associated with large changes in the global environment and extinctions of biological species. The variable intensity of environmental changes induced by otherwise similar CFB events, however, begs for a reevaluation of physical controls on the environmental impact of volcanic eruptions. The climatic impact of an eruption depends on its ability to inject gases in the stratosphere and on the eruption rate. Using integral models of turbulent plumes above line and point sources, we find that mass rate estimates for CFBs are in general not large enough for volcanic plumes to reach the stratosphere on their own. Basaltic eruptions, however, are also associated with widespread lava flows which lose large amounts of heat and generate convection in the atmosphere. This form of convection, known as penetrative convection, acts to erode the stably stratified lower atmosphere and generates a thick well-mixed heated atmospheric layer in a few hours. The added buoyancy provided by such a layer almost always ensures that volcanic gases get transported to the stratosphere. The environmental consequences of CFBs are therefore controlled not by the inputs to the atmosphere from individual volcanic plumes, but by the dynamic response of the climate system to a succession of short eruptive pulses within a longer-lasting eruption sequence. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.</p>
Kaminski, E. Chenet, A. -L. Jaupart, C. Courtillot, V.