Scientific American: Particles of sulfuric acid–injected by volcanoes or humans–have slowed the pace of climate change in the past decade
Despite significant pyrotechnics and air travel disruption last year, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull simply didn’t put that many aerosols into the stratosphere. In contrast, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, put 10 cubic kilometers of ash, gas and other materials into the sky, and cooled the planet for a year. Now, research suggests that for the past decade, such stratospheric aerosols—injected into the atmosphere by either recent volcanic eruptions or human activities such as coal burning—are slowing down global warming.
“Aerosols acted to keep warming from being as big as it would have been,” says atmospheric scientist John Daniel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory, who helped lead the research published online in Science on July 21. “It’s still warming, it’s just not warming as much as it would have been.”
… Combined with a decrease in atmospheric water vapor and a weaker sun due to the most recent solar cycle, the aerosol finding may explain why climate change has not been accelerating as fast as it did in the 1990s.