Abstract

Large explosive volcanic eruptions inject gases, aerosols, and fine ashes into the stratosphere, potentially influencing climate. Emissions of chlorine (Cl) and bromine (Br) from such large eruptions play an important role for catalytic destruction of ozone in the stratosphere, but hitherto the global effects of simultaneous catastrophic release of volcanic Br and Cl into the stratosphere have not been investigated. The Br release from 14 large explosive eruptions throughout Nicaragua covering an entire subduction zone segment in the past 70 ka was determined with petrologic methods. Melt inclusions in volcanic phenocrysts were analyzed using a new optimized synchrotron–X-ray fluorescence microprobe set-up. Single eruptions produced Br outputs of 4–600 kt, giving an average Br emission of 27 kt per eruption. Using the assumption that 10% of the emitted halogens reach the stratosphere, the average Br and Cl loading to the stratosphere would be 3 ppt and 1500 ppt, respectively, which together would account for 185% of the preindustrial equivalent effective stratospheric Cl loading. We thus conclude that many large tropical volcanic eruptions had and have the potential to substantially deplete ozone on a global scale, eventually forming future ozone holes.

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