The famous volcano Krakatoa erupted today in Indonesia; the volcano is known to have had a significant impact on global climate after its eruption in 1883. Scientists are monitoring the volcano, warning residents to stay away in the event of a larger eruption. The Anak Krakatau Volcano Observatory (AKVO) raised the color alert level in the region from yellow to orange. Krakatoa is also transcribed as Krakatau and the names have been used interchangeably by Indonesian officials and scientists following the volcanic event.
The Observatory has reported several eruptions at the volcano, with the last occurring around 6 p.m. ET today. This eruption lasted about 282 seconds and produced an ash cloud in the sky at about 5,302 feet. AKVO reported “Visuals directly from CCT were observed of eruptions with the color of thick black eruption smoke 1500m from the summit of the volcano”, with winds carrying the volcanic ash cloud to the northeast from the eruption site.
On May 20, 1883, an eruption at Krakatoa in Indonesia’s Sunda Strait began; the series of eruptions culminated nearly 3 months later on August 27, when more than 70% of Krakatoa Island and its surrounding archipelago was destroyed when it collapsed into a caldera. The 1883 eruption is considered even more explosive than Tonga’s recent volcanic eruption at Hunga Tonga, which generated a Pacific-wide tsunami and a global pressure wave that circled the Earth several times.
The 1883 eruption was one of the deadliest and most destructive volcanic events recorded in history, with the population of nearby islands wiped out and over 35,000 people killed. The volcanic disaster triggered pyroclastic flows, abundant volcanic ash and triggered multiple tsunamis. There are numerous reports of groups of human skeletons floating across the Indian Ocean and washing up on the east coast of Africa for up to a year after the massive eruption.
While Krakatoa’s 1883 eruption was deadly, it had a greater impact around the world, creating what is known as a “volcanic winter.” Scientists believe the eruption injected a huge amount of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which was then carried around the world via jet streams. This led to an overall increase in sulfuric acid concentration in high-level cirrus clouds, which resulted in an increase in cloud reflectivity. Because the Sun was reflecting more light back to space from the Sun than usual, the entire planet cooled until atmospheric sulfur rushed out of the sky for several years.
In the year since the eruption, global temperatures have dropped and weather patterns have changed, bringing record rains to places like Los Angeles and San Diego, heavy snowfalls to New York.
It’s too early to know what Krakatoa will do next. In recent months, the volcano has become somewhat active. Throughout 2021, intermittent white plumes of gas and steam would rise and drift around the volcano. Throughout the year, NASA’s Global Sulfur Dioxide Watch page also reported low but distinct sulfur dioxide emissions above the volcano.
In November 2021, during periods of clear weather, white plumes and white to gray plumes were also seen rising above Krakatau, with incandescence visible inside the crater at least three times. Due to this activity, authorities have placed the volcano at Alert Level 2 on a scale of 1-2. The public has been advised to stay out of a 2 km radius danger zone from the volcanic crater; a warning that remains to this day.