Articles | Volume 18, issue 3
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 2307–2328, 2018

Special issue: The Model Intercomparison Project on the climatic response...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 2307–2328, 2018

Research article 15 Feb 2018

Research article | 15 Feb 2018

Multi-model comparison of the volcanic sulfate deposition from the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora

Lauren Marshall1, Anja Schmidt1,a, Matthew Toohey2,3, Ken S. Carslaw1, Graham W. Mann1,4, Michael Sigl5, Myriam Khodri6, Claudia Timmreck3, Davide Zanchettin7, William T. Ball8,9, Slimane Bekki10, James S. A. Brooke11, Sandip Dhomse1, Colin Johnson12, Jean-Francois Lamarque13, Allegra N. LeGrande14,15, Michael J. Mills13, Ulrike Niemeier3, James O. Pope16, Virginie Poulain6, Alan Robock17, Eugene Rozanov8,9, Andrea Stenke8, Timofei Sukhodolov9, Simone Tilmes13, Kostas Tsigaridis15,14, and Fiona Tummon8,b Lauren Marshall et al.
  • 1Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK
  • 2GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany
  • 3Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 4National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Leeds, UK
  • 5Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institut, 5232 Villigen, Switzerland
  • 6Laboratoire d'Océanographie et du Climat: Expérimentations et Approches Numériques, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC, IPSL, UMR CNRS/IRD/MNHN, 75005 Paris, France
  • 7Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, University Ca' Foscari of Venice, Mestre, Italy
  • 8Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 9PMOD/WRC, Davos, Switzerland
  • 10LATMOS-IPSL, UPMC/Paris-Sorbonne, UVSQ/Paris Saclay, CNRS/INSU, Paris, France
  • 11School of Chemistry, University of Leeds, UK
  • 12Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK
  • 13Atmospheric Chemistry Observations and Modeling Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 14NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, USA
  • 15Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  • 16British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK
  • 17Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
  • anow at: Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, UK and Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UK
  • bnow at: Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries, and Economics, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway

Abstract. The eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 was the largest volcanic eruption of the past 500 years. The eruption had significant climatic impacts, leading to the 1816 year without a summer, and remains a valuable event from which to understand the climatic effects of large stratospheric volcanic sulfur dioxide injections. The eruption also resulted in one of the strongest and most easily identifiable volcanic sulfate signals in polar ice cores, which are widely used to reconstruct the timing and atmospheric sulfate loading of past eruptions. As part of the Model Intercomparison Project on the climatic response to Volcanic forcing (VolMIP), five state-of-the-art global aerosol models simulated this eruption. We analyse both simulated background (no Tambora) and volcanic (with Tambora) sulfate deposition to polar regions and compare to ice core records. The models simulate overall similar patterns of background sulfate deposition, although there are differences in regional details and magnitude. However, the volcanic sulfate deposition varies considerably between the models with differences in timing, spatial pattern and magnitude. Mean simulated deposited sulfate on Antarctica ranges from 19 to 264 kg km−2 and on Greenland from 31 to 194 kg km−2, as compared to the mean ice-core-derived estimates of roughly 50 kg km−2 for both Greenland and Antarctica. The ratio of the hemispheric atmospheric sulfate aerosol burden after the eruption to the average ice sheet deposited sulfate varies between models by up to a factor of 15. Sources of this inter-model variability include differences in both the formation and the transport of sulfate aerosol. Our results suggest that deriving relationships between sulfate deposited on ice sheets and atmospheric sulfate burdens from model simulations may be associated with greater uncertainties than previously thought.

Short summary
We use four global aerosol models to compare the simulated sulfate deposition from the 1815 Mt. Tambora eruption to ice core records. Inter-model volcanic sulfate deposition differs considerably. Volcanic sulfate deposited on polar ice sheets is used to estimate the atmospheric sulfate burden and subsequently radiative forcing of historic eruptions. Our results suggest that deriving such relationships from model simulations may be associated with greater uncertainties than previously thought.
Final-revised paper