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Geoscientist Online

Volcanism and Global Environmental Change

sw6iThe publication of this book comes on the back of the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull which raised in the general public’s consciousness the potential of volcanic eruptions to affect our climate, environment and how we go about our daily lives. This multidisciplinary volume is divided into three parts; the first focuses on the origins, features and timing of large volume volcanism; the second on assessing gas and tephra release both in the present day and paleo-record; and the third deals with modes of volcanically induced global environmental change. The 20 chapters are a mixture of recent advances in the field and broader reviews, supported generously with monochromatic illustrations, figures and diagrams, as well as a central section of colour figures.

The main message is that some large past eruptions (e.g. continental flood basalts) had global impacts affecting climate and environmental chemistry and potentially triggering mass extinctions; not every eruption instigates major environmental change however, and the mechanisms which control different modes of volcanism and their range of associated environmental effects are the subject of ongoing research. Gas and aerosol particles from highly explosive and volumetrically large eruptions have the potential to circulate in the stratosphere, causing hemispheric or global perturbations to climate and environment, however the complex physical and chemical interactions of these particles remain to be fully explored and understood.    

For me, the best feature of the book is that it brings the reader up to date with current advances in quantifying the impacts of recent volcanic eruptions (e.g. in satellite and aircraft-based remote sensing techniques) and links this to knowledge of past events in the geological record. The book deals with a selection of impacts including extinctions, ocean ecosystems, and the environmental and climatic impacts specific to ash and gas deposition as well as those generated by large igneous province magmatism. The authors are careful to highlight that scaling climatic effects of both historical and present day activity to large volume volcanism is challenging, however, if we are to be better prepared to deal with the fallout of global eruptions these are challenges which need addressing.

Volcanoes and the Environment by Marti and Ernst (2008, also Cambridge University Press) provides a valuable broad introduction into this subject area, whereas Volcanism and Global Environmental Change affords a useful update of key areas where notable recent advances have been made.

Reviewed by Sabina Michnowicz

VOLCANISM AND GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE by ANJA SCHMIDT, KIRSTEN E. FRISTAD AND LINDA T. ELKINS-TANTON (EDS.), 2015. Published by: Cambridge University Press 339pp (hbk) ISBN: 9781107058378 List Price: £75.00. W: