How will melting of ice affect volcanic hazards in the twenty-first century?

Hugh Tuffen

Abstract

Glaciers and ice sheets on many active volcanoes are rapidly receding. There is compelling evidence that melting of ice during the last deglaciation triggered a dramatic acceleration in volcanic activity. Will melting of ice this century, which is associated with climate change, similarly affect volcanic activity and associated hazards? This paper provides a critical overview of the evidence that current melting of ice will increase the frequency or size of hazardous volcanic eruptions. Many aspects of the link between ice recession and accelerated volcanic activity remain poorly understood. Key questions include how rapidly volcanic systems react to melting of ice, whether volcanoes are sensitive to small changes in ice thickness and how recession of ice affects the generation, storage and eruption of magma at stratovolcanoes. A greater frequency of collapse events at glaciated stratovolcanoes can be expected in the near future, and there is strong potential for positive feedbacks between melting of ice and enhanced volcanism. Nonetheless, much further research is required to remove current uncertainties about the implications of climate change for volcanic hazards in the twenty-first century.

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