Volcano and Mountain Climates

Sarychev Volcano, Kuril Islands, Russia. Photo courtesy of
Goddard Photo and Video Blog/Flickr. Licensed CC BY.

Volcanoes and mountains both affect climate. Mountains force air masses to cool and release rain or snow on the windward side. As a result, the windward sides of mountains have moist climates. However, because clouds release their moisture on the windward side or summit of a mountain, the leeward side develops a"rain shadow" due to the lack of precipitation. In fact, many of Earth's desert biomes are located on the leeward side of mountain chains.

Volcanoes can affect both long-term and short-term climate patterns. In the short-term, eruptions disrupt weather, can trigger heavy rainfall, and consequently destroy animal and plant life. Volcanic eruptions can also trigger global cooling events lasting several years. Volcanic eruptions also release greenhouse gases into Earth's atmosphere. These greenhouse gases disrupt Earth's carbon cycle, and can contribute to global warming in the long run.
Last modified: Wednesday, 14 December 2011, 9:49 AM