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CR 79:151-162 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01587

Volcanic mega-eruptions may trigger major cholera outbreaks

Zsolt Pinke1,2,*, Stephen Pow3, Zoltán Kern4

1Eötvös Lórand University, Department of Physical Geography , Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, 1118 Budapest, Hungary
2Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, Flakkebjerg Research Centre, Forsøgsvej 1, 4200 Slagelse, Denmark
3Central European University, Department of Medieval Studies, Nádor u. 9, 1051 Budapest, Hungary
4Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences Institute for Geological and Geochemical Research, Budaörsi út 45, 1112 Budapest, Hungary
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Reviewing the results of environmental epidemiology, post-volcanic climatology, and environmental history, we focused exclusively on volcanic eruption-ENSO and ENSO-cholera connections in order to establish a hypothesis that large tropical and Northern Hemisphere volcanic eruptions trigger an environmentally driven cascade process via post-volcanic ENSO anomalies. This cascade process has tended historically to lead to cholera outbreaks in Bengal (i.e. the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta region of modern India and Bangladesh). To test our hypothesis, we set up a dataset from strong tropical and Northern Hemisphere volcanic events that forced the ENSO system, ENSO indices, and historical data for cholera outbreaks. Eight volcanic eruptions (≥3.3 W m-2) were accompanied within 2 yr by El Niño events over the past 500 yr. For the 19th-20th century period, all selected volcanic eruptions were accompanied by major cholera outbreaks in Bengal during the examined post-volcanic years. For the past 500 yr, the likelihood of the occurrence of major post-volcanic cholera outbreaks was 75%.


KEY WORDS: ENSO · El Niño · Bengal · Tambora · Samalas · Pinatubo · Environmental cascade


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Cite this article as: Pinke Z, Pow S, Kern Z (2019) Volcanic mega-eruptions may trigger major cholera outbreaks. Clim Res 79:151-162. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01587

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