At around 3AM this morning, one of Chile’s most active volcanoes began erupting, forcing evacuations of 4000 people.
Villarrica is one of the few permanently active volcanoes in the world, and this latest eruption – the strongest in 20 years – could give humans a hand in slowing climate change.
When volcanoes erupt, they spew sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere (where it turns into aerosols), which gradually make its way around the earth, reflecting heat into space – thus, cooling down our planet for several years until it finally dissipates.
"Yes, this can be the planet’s own form of climate engineering," Phil Rasch, Chief Scientist for Climate Science at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest Lab, told Christian Science Monitor.
Indeed, this is one of the more promising forms of human geoengineering that scientists are working on. They would seed clouds with sulfur dioxide, mimicking volcanoes.
Is this eruption big enough to make a dent in global warming? Scientists don’t know yet, they are taking measurements, but blow-outs over the centuries have cooled the earth as much as 0.3 degree C.
9000-foot high Villarrica through an ash plume up another few kilometers high, and although the eruption ceased by morning, seismic ratings are still high, which could mean more action.