I am a meteorologist and climate scientist with an interest in the interaction between volcanoes and weather. The effect of volcanoes on climate is well established, with sulphate aerosols from volcanic emissions reflecting sunlight back to space and causing a cooling of the climate. However, the effect of the weather on volcanoes is less well known. With a particular focus on the ongoing eruption at the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, we have established a clear observational link between heavy rainfall and the subsequent triggering of volcanic activity. Simple models of the physical processes within the volcano have revealed a role for rainwater “capping” the volcano and impeding the upward and outward flow of gases from within the volcano. This leads to a rapid build up of pressure within the volcano, which can then trigger self-sustaining volcanic activity. Current research in this area is also investigating the effect the volcano has (as, essentially, a mountain with a hot surface) on the development of the weather systems themselves.
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