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Volcanic mega-eruptions may trigger major cholera outbreaks

Zsolt Pinke*, Stephen Pow, Zoltán Kern

*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. 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/m2) were accompanied within 2 years by El Niño events over the past 500 years. In case of 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 years, the likelihood for the occurrence of major post-volcanic cholera outbreaks was 75%.