Are Volcanoes Erupting More Frequently?

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Mount Raung volcano emits steam and ash as seen in the background from Banyuwangi, located in Indonesia’s eastern Java island, on July 23, 2015. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

(SOURCE)  It seems like there have been a lot of volcanic eruptions lately.

Popocatépetl volcano in central Mexico has been spewing ash and smoke for months, while Colima, also in Mexico, continues to erupt regularly. In Japan, Sakurajima keeps threatening to erupt in a big way, and some scientists believe it will happen soon. According to Volcano Discovery, there are at least eight volcanoes currently active around the world.

If you’re wondering what all this activity means, you’re not alone. Scientists are asking the very same questions. They’ve been studying active periods of volcanic eruptions to see if there’s a trend, or even if something’s causing the increase in these events – and they still don’t have any concrete answers.

Last year, a new study was released suggesting the speed at which the Earth spins may have an effect on the amount of volcanic activity. The belief is that the extra energy the sun uses to alter the speed of Earth’s spin, even by the smallest amount, can transfer hundreds of thousands of petajoules of energy into the subsurface, and that may trigger additional eruptions.

Some researchers have also said global warming may be to blame. According to a 2012 study in the journal Geology, melting of land ice could relieve pressure off continents, which may allow magma to surge up more easily, leading to a higher likelihood of more eruptions. A 2015 study in Iceland had similar findings, according to Time.

But the scientists of both studies agree that the ties between climate change and more eruptions aren’t concrete, and more examination needs to be done before any conclusions can be drawn.

“The link between climate change and volcanism is still poorly understood,” Dr. Robin Wylie, researcher of volcanology at the University College of London, said in the Conversation, a science magazine based in the UK.

If either of these theories are proven to be true, Wylie adds, it would be yet another example of how the smallest changes in our world can have major consequences.