VICS scientific goals

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Figure 1: The VICS working group focuses on the synergy between paleo data 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

VICS aims 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.

VICS has three 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 will support the reconstruction of next-generation volcanic forcing data sets—focusing first on the past 2000 years, and eventually to the full Holocene—and facilitate their use within modeling efforts such as the Paleo-Modelling Intercomparison Project (PMIP). VICS will also support 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 will support 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 will be 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 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 encourage 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 will be based on examination of historical and archeological records, and will also aim to develop tools to better frame climate model results in terms of societal impacts. Such tools will be 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 the VICS Working Group will:

Support the development of a volcanic forcing dataset covering the full Holocene period, including an assessment of uncertainty;

Support validation and comparison of model simulations (e.g. VolMIP, PMIP6, SSiRC) with instrumental and proxy-based climate reconstructions;

Build a website with data repository and public outreach materials;

Coordinate a special issue of an interdisciplinary journal on volcanic forcing, climate and society.