June 15, 1991 – Mount Pinatubo erupts, slowing temperature increase (very) briefly

On this day in 1991 In the Philippines, Mount Pinatubo erupted. It was the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century, and it caused a “dramatic but temporary” break in global warming trends, as predicted by Hansen et. al in 1992.

We use the GISS global climate model to make a preliminary estimate of Mount Pinatubo’s climate impact. Assuming the aerosol optical depth is nearly twice as great as for the 1982 El Chichon eruption, the model forecasts a dramatic but temporary break in recent global warming trends. The simulations indicate that Pinatubo occurred too late in the year to prevent 1991 from becoming one of the warmest years in instrumental records, but intense aerosol cooling is predicted to begin late in 1991 and to maximize late in 1992. The predicted cooling is sufficiently large that by mid 1992 it should even overwhelm global warming associated with an El Nino that appears to be developing, but the El Nino could shift the time of minimum global temperature into 1993. The model predicts a return to record warm levels in the later 1990s. We estimate the effect of the predicted global cooling on such practical matters as the severity of the coming Soviet winter and the dates of cherry blossoming next spring, and discuss caveats which must accompany these preliminary simulations.

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