Bali Volcano Eruption Might Lower Global Temperatures

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A volcano in Indonesia that's been edging closer to a massive eruption could impact the global climate.

Mount Agung on the island of Bali began experiencing tremors in August and first erupted in November, The Washington Post reports. A large eruption is likely to happen soon.

During the volcano's last eruption in 1963, more than 1,600 people died. Most of the people died from pyroclastic flows -- large clouds of ash, debris and hot fumes that advance rapidly over land.

Citizens aren't taking their chances battling the latest eruption. The Indonesian National Disaster Management Authority issued mandatory evacuations for roughly 100,000 people that reside in more than 20 villages within a 7.5-mile radius of the volcano. International flights have been canceled, leaving tourists and citizens with few options to leave the island.

There's a possibility that the recent activity could simmer down without causing a major event, but that's still an unknown at this point. The potential devastation of an explosion has been enough to merit Indonesia's highest level of emergency.

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On Nov. 28, a half-hour tremor prompted warnings that a major eruption was imminent. Such an explosion might affect people worldwide.

Erupting volcanoes spew sulfur dioxide several miles up into the atmosphere. Those that are the size and strength of Mount Agung have the capacity to reach the stratosphere, where sulfur dioxide particles react with water vapor to form droplets that reflect sunlight back into space. The result is lower temperatures across the planet.

"We know Agung put a lot of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere in 1963, so we know it's got the right chemistry," Alan Robock, an environmental scientist and expert on how volcanoes affect the climate at Rutgers University, told Mashable. "But it has to have a much bigger eruption than has occurred so far."

Washington's Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980 was the largest volcanic eruption in U.S. history, but even that explosion didn't send particles high enough into the atmosphere cause global cooling. Mount Agung is positioned at a much better place to disperse particles over the world should release sulfur dioxide far enough.

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The particles can last in the air for up to two years, so global temperatures would expect to drop by 1 degree Fahrenheit during that time. Interior areas of Asia or North America -- including certain areas of the U.S. -- could experience temperatures as much as 5 degrees cooler in summer.

Sources: The Washington Post, Mashable / Featured Image: Michael W. Ishak/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: U.S. Geological Survey, slworking2/Wikimedia Commons

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