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June 11, 2001

John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000


Release: 01-37AR

NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: You are invited to interview scientists about the explosion of Mt. Pinatubo that occurred a decade ago.


The explosion of the Mt. Pinatubo volcano on June 15, 1991, was the largest volcanic eruption the world had seen in nearly a century. In addition to the widespread destruction that the volcano wrought on the Philippine island of Luzon, Mt. Pinatubo’s impact was felt around the world.

Global average temperatures cooled for more than a year after the eruption due to the massive injection of dust and gases into the upper atmosphere. With the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, the global effects of volcanoes on climate were captured in detail for the first time by a suite of Earth-observing satellites.

"By combining satellite information with other measurements from airplanes and the Earth’s surface, we were able to monitor the Pinatubo impact on the upper atmosphere for many years after the eruption," said Phil Russell of NASA Ames Research Center, located in California’s Silicon Valley. "We measured the initial increase in particle sizes and the subsequent return to pre-eruption values many years later."

Russell and other scientists who were involved in many of these trailblazing studies are available for interviews

A Global Pall of Dust and Aerosols. Pinatubo pumped so much volcanic ash and gas into the upper reaches of the atmosphere that the normal levels of stratospheric aerosols increased by more than 20 times, leading to a short-lived global cooling. Interview Phil Russell, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA; telephone John Bluck at 650/604-5026 or 650/604-9000 to schedule interviews with Russell; e-mail

A Temporary Global Cooling. Global warming was halted — at least temporarily — by the aerosol cloud from the eruption, which lowered global average temperatures by half a degree through 1992. NASA climate modelers precisely predicted this volcano-induced cooling — a powerful demonstration of the capability of these computer simulations. Contact: James Hansen, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, telephone, 212/678-5500; e-mail

Ozone Levels Drop Worldwide. The protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere weakened for more than a year as the result of gases injected into the stratosphere by the eruption. NASA’s Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) instrument tracked the decline and eventual recovery from start to finish. Contact: Jay Herman, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD; telephone, 301/614-6039; e-mail

A Shift in the Weather and Winds. The eruption also caused changes in regional weather patterns. Climate models showed that Pinatubo produced a shift in wind patterns in the North Atlantic that lead to a warmer-than-usual winter in Europe in 1991-92. Contacts: Gavin Schmidt, Columbia University and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY; telephone 212/678-5627; e-mail Drew Shindell, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY; telephone, 212/678-5561; e-mail

Mudflows: A Continuing Hazard. The millions of tons of ash and rock that blanketed the flanks of Mt. Pinatubo created dangerous rivers of mud during the annual rainy season. Scientists are keeping an eye on this shifting natural hazard with airborne and space sensors. Contact: Peter Mouginis-Mark, University of Hawaii, Honolulu; telephone, 808/956-3147; e-mail

A New View of the Swirling Atmosphere. The Mt. Pinatubo eruption was a unique natural experiment that unveiled movements in the atmosphere that scientists had never seen before. As satellites tracked volcanic aerosols moving around the globe, researchers saw movements through the troposphere into the stratosphere for the first time. Contact: Chip Trepte, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA; telephone, 757/864-5836; e-mail

Visualizations of Mt. Pinatubo and several of these global climate effects will be broadcast on NASA TV on Wednesday, June 13 at 1 2 noon, 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., EDT. NASA TV is broadcast on the GE2 satellite, which is located on Transponder 9C, at 85 degrees West longitude, frequency 3880.0 MHz, audio 6.8 MHz.



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