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Disaster Goes Global

The eruption in 1600 of a seemingly quiet volcano in Peru changed global climate and triggered famine as far away as Russia

4:18pm, August 15, 2009

Small disturbances can eventually have immense consequences. In the namesake example of the butterfly effect, the vortex spun from a butterfly’s wing creates tiny changes in the atmosphere that result in a hurricane half a world away. While that’s theoretically possible, no one has yet tried to blame the insect world for triggering a cyclone.

But a strong link does exist between the small particles suspended high in Earth’s atmosphere, such as those spewed from erupting volcanoes, and the overall climate down at the planet’s surface. High-altitude aerosols, especially in large numbers, block sunlight from reaching the ground and scatter it back into space, thereby cooling the planet for months or even y

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