VICS scientific goals


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Figure 2: The VICS working group focuses on the synergy between paleodata and climate-model simulations. Proxy data is used to reconstruct the radiative forcing of past volcanic eruptions, and used in climate-model simulations of the past. Model simulations can then be compared with proxy-based climate reconstructions, documentary and instrumental data.

Key aims of Phase 2

The group's objectives remain organized around three main pillars:

1. Improve volcanic radiative forcing reconstructions

VICS will support proxy based reconstructions of past volcanic activity to refine the location, magnitude, and timing of eruptions in the past, extending in Phase 2 to cover the full Holocene,  extending deeper back in time using long polar ice core records in conjunction with tephrachronological records from around the globe.

VICS will support the reconstruction of improved volcanic forcing data sets based on proxy records of volcanic activity. Progress will build on reconstructions produced in phase 1, including novel new measurements and findings from numerical aerosol modelling studies.

2. Improve understanding of volcanically-induced climate variability

VICS will support interpretation of proxy-based investigations of the impact of volcanic eruptions. Special emphasis will be placed in Phase 2 on utilizing a wider range of climate proxies beyond tree rings, including corals, speleothems and other annually resolved climate proxies to better understand the spatial and seasonal variability of volcanic climate impacts.

VICS will foster multi-disciplinary collaboration working towards the validation and interpretation  of simulations performed within CMIP6, including the PMIP4 and VolMIP activities. Model experiments performed within these projects will make a valuable contribution to exploring physical mechanisms linking volcanic emissions with different climate responses.

3. Improve understanding of societal impacts of volcanic eruptions

VICS will continue to encourage studies into how volcanically-induced climatic shocks have impacted past societies in a range of different socioeconomic and cultural settings, with context provided by proxy climate reconstructions and climate model simulations. In Phase 2, an increased emphasis will be placed on complementing historical archives sources with archaeological records of societal impact and response.

VICS will foster activities aimed at increasing understanding and awareness of how major future eruptions might impact modern societies and economies.

Key aims and objectives of Phase 1

VICS aimed to provide a forum for the exchange of information between different communities interested in the impacts of volcanic eruptions, including communities involved in paleoclimate reconstruction, climate modeling, ice core interpretation, and historical climate/societal interactions.

Phase 1 had similar overarching scientific aims:

1. Improve volcanic radiative forcing reconstructions: Knowledge of the history of volcanic forcing is becoming clearer and clearer thanks to analysis of ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland. VICS supported the reconstruction of next-generation volcanic forcing data sets—focusing first on the past 2000 years, and eventually to the full Holocene—and facilitated their use within modeling efforts such as the Paleo-Modelling Intercomparison Project (PMIP). VICS also supported work on improving the accuracy of volcanic forcing, through reducing uncertainties in the relationship between stratospheric aerosol loading and deposition to the polar ice sheets.

2. Improve understanding of volcanically-induced climate variability: Climate models, proxy-based climate reconstructions and instrumental data don’t always agree on the climate impact of major volcanic eruptions of the past. VICS supported efforts to improve agreement between different sources of information, fostering collaboration between the proxy, cryosphere, and climate modeling communities, for example concerning the validation of simulations performed within the PMIP and VolMIP projects. Special emphasis was placed on the regional and seasonal character of volcanic responses and proxy records, the robustness of decadal-scale responses, dynamical responses linked to atmospheric circulation (e.g. changes in precipitation), the role of different boundary conditions (e.g. season and ocean state), and the roles of eruption frequency versus magnitude. Model experiments made a valuable contribution to exploring physical mechanisms linking volcanic emissions with different climate responses.

3. Improve understanding of societal impacts of volcanic eruptions: VICS encouraged studies into how major eruptions have impacted societies in the past, on different time-scales (short-term to longer-term) and in a range of different socioeconomic and cultural settings expected to have varying susceptibility to volcanically-induced climatic shocks. This was based on examination of historical and archeological records, and also aimed to develop tools to better frame climate model results in terms of societal impacts. Such tools are helpful in predicting societal impacts of major near-future eruptions, e.g. how a Pinatubo or Tambora-magnitude eruption might impact modern economies.

During Phase 1, VICS supported the development of a volcanic forcing dataset covering the full Holocene period, including an assessment of uncertainty; supported validation and comparison of model simulations (e.g. VolMIP, PMIP6, SSiRC) with instrumental and proxy-based climate reconstructions; built a website with data repository and public outreach materials; and coordinated a special issue of an interdisciplinary journal on volcanic forcing, climate and society.