YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER
The Secure Your Food Program Rationale is based on the perspective that food production is negatively affected by extreme weather. On the list of potential types of events which may increase extreme weather is the effect of aerosols from erupting volcanoes. The main cause is Sulphuric Acid which at the stratospheric levels, reflect solar energy from the earth. This reflection of sunlight, at these levels, can result in colder temperatures worldwide.
Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines, erupted in 1991 and pushed gases into the stratosphere resulting in an estimated -0.5 degree Celsius temperature decrease worldwide (Self, Zhao, Holasek, Torres, & King, 1993, Introduction, para.3). This resulted in more extreme weather and has been thought to be a formative influence behind the 1993 winter storm which hit the eastern U.S. (Stevens,1993,12-13).
Year without a summer
In April of 1815, Mount Tambora violently exploded with six times the force of Pinatubo, ejecting as much gases into the stratosphere (Oppenheimer, 2013, p.234). Also, volcanic eruptions on the equator tend to distribute around the globe as opposed to eruptions in the North which distribute regionally or within that hemisphere. The gases from the eruption mixed with moisture in that level of our atmosphere and became acid rain. This would have the effect of reflecting sunlight away from our planet. The result of this was the year without a summer in 1816 and along with this was the recorded failures in crop production which led to starvation and death (Oppenheimer, 2013, p.244).
What can we expect?
The trend for volcanic activity has been steadily rising and interestingly enough in concert with earthquake activity. Current graphs are illustrating an increase of 3x-4x since the 1900’s and it would seem that volcanic activity appears to be increasing (Doocy, Daniels, & Dooling, 2013, Figure 2). This means the likelihood of a major eruption event that will affect world wide temperature is likely.
Volcanic eruptions are classified according the to the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI). Mt. Pinatubo’s VEI was considered to be 6 on a scale of 1-7, where a VEI of seven is an eruption from a Super Volcano, of which the Yellowstone Caldera’s past eruptions qualify for this classification (United States Geological Survey, 2017, Figure 1).
If we have a major volcano with a VEI index of 4 or above, it will affect global temperature and result in negative food production. In recent years, SYF has considered growing outdoors to be a gamble and considers that a combination of systems resulting in good growing conditions are not assured. This is why SYF proposes to take growing indoors where the climate is stable and somewhat optimal. Read our last blog on how you can start container growing indoors.
February 21, 2018 update
February 19, 2018 Sinabung Eruption
Mount Sinabung exploded on Monday, losing a large part of its summit and also propelling ejecta into the upper atmosphere. Experts are still mulling over the severity of the explosion with the ratings of 3-5 on the VEI scale still being determined. SYF expects that extreme weather conditions will be exacerbated as result of the prolonged fallout from this eruption. *Update : The Sinabung eruption did not reach the stratosphere according to new estimates and will not be affecting global climate. Initial estimates reported 16.5 KM height which would have been in the stratosphere were it at that height. This is a good thing. Thanks to Jeff Q for the heads up.*
This combined with the projected losses in food production this coming growing season highlight the need to take personal responsibility over the production of food for yourself and your family. SYF will be a resource to this by showcasing and highlighting ways to accomplish this. For example, indoor container growing is something we discussed in our last blog post and is something that you can start today. Prepare accordingly and good luck!
Doocy, S., Daniels, A., & Dooling, S. The Human Impact of Volcanoes: a Historical Review of Events 1900-2009 and Systematic. Retrieved from http://currents.plos.org/disasters/article/the-human-impact-of-volcanoes-a-historical-review-of-events-1900-2009-and-systematic-literature-review/
Oppenheimer, C. (2003). Climatic, environmental and human consequences of the largest known historic eruption: Tambora volcano (Indonesia) 1815. Progress in physical geography, 27(2), 230-259.
Self, S., Zhao, J. X., Holasek, R. E., Torres, R. C., & King, A. J. (1993). The atmospheric impact of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption. Retrieved from https://pubs.usgs.gov/pinatubo/self/
Stevens, W.K. (1993). THE BLIZZARD OF '93: Meteorology; 3 Disturbances Became a Big Storm. N.Y. Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/14/nyregion/the-blizzard-of-93-meteorology-3-disturbances-became-a-big-storm.html
U.S. Geological Survey (2017). VEI. Retrieved from https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/vsc/glossary/vei.html