Back to overview

Multi-model comparison of the volcanic sulfate deposition from the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Marshall Lauren, Schmidt Anja, Toohey Matthew, Carslaw Ken S., Mann Graham W., Sigl Michael, Khodri Myriam, Timmreck Claudia, Zanchettin Davide, Ball William, Bekki Slimane, Brooke James S. A., Dhomse Sandip, Johnson Colin, Lamarque Jean-Francois, LeGrande Allegra, Mills Michael J., Niemeier Ulrike, Poulain Virginie, Robock Alan, Rozanov Eugene, Stenke Andrea, Sukhodolov Timofei, Tilmes Simone, et al.,
Project SPARC International Project office
Show all

Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions
Page(s) 1 - 39
Title of proceedings Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions
DOI 10.5194/acp-2017-729

Open Access

Type of Open Access Website


The eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 was the largest volcanic eruption of the past 500 years. The eruption had significant climatic impacts, leading to the 1816 Year Without a Summer and remains a valuable event from which to understand the climatic effects of large stratospheric volcanic sulfur dioxide injections. The eruption also resulted in one of the strongest and most easily identifiable volcanic signals in polar ice cores, which are widely used to reconstruct the timing and atmospheric sulfate loading of past eruptions. As part of the Model Intercomparison Project on the climatic response to Volcanic forcing (VolMIP), four state-of-the-art global aerosol models simulated this eruption. We analyse both simulated background (no Tambora) and volcanic (with Tambora) sulfate deposition to polar regions and compare to ice core records. Background sulfate deposition is of similar magnitude across all models and compares well to ice core records. However, volcanic sulfate deposition varies in timing, spatial pattern and magnitude between the models. Mean simulated deposited sulfate on Antarctica ranges from 19 to 264 kg km −2 , and on Greenland from 31 to 194 kg km −2 , as compared to the mean ice core-derived estimates of roughly 40–50 kg km −2 , for both Greenland and Antarctica. The ratio of the hemispheric atmospheric sulfate aerosol burden after the eruption to the average ice sheet deposited sulfate varies between models by up to a factor of 15. Sources of this inter-model variability include differences in both the formation and the transport of sulfate aerosol. Our results highlight the uncertainties and difficulties in deriving historic volcanic aerosol radiative forcing of climate, based on measured volcanic sulfate in polar ice cores.