When Tonga’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai Volcano erupted violently Earlier this year, it spewed an unprecedented amount of water vapor into the atmosphere – and it would have a noticeable effect on Earth’s temperature.
The January 15 eruption near the Pacific Islands nation caused a tsunami and a sonic boom that engulfed Earth twice, and was described by the local government as “an unprecedented disaster,
Not only did it send ashes into the stratosphere, but it also sent enough water vapor to fill 58,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. according to nasa, the scientists said It broke “all records” of water vapor injection as satellites began recording such data.
Images from drones, flights and even the International Space Station captured the explosion’s remarkable scale.
Microwave Limb Sounder instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite, which measures atmospheric gases, found the blast Transported about 146 teragrams of water into the stratosphere, about eight to 33 miles above the planet’s surface. One teragram equals one trillion grams, and that peak amount increased the total amount of water in the stratosphere by about 10%.
This is about four times the amount of water vapor estimated to have entered the stratosphere from the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines. scientists say that phenomenal feather, which Hiroshima dwarfed the power of the atomic bombcan temporarily affect the global average temperature of the Earth.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Louis Milne, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, whose team said the water vapor readings were “off the charts.”NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen using Landsat data from the US Geological Survey
“We had to carefully inspect all measurements in the plume to make sure they were reliable,” Milne said.
Since NASA began taking measurements 18 years ago, only two other eruptions, the 2008 Kasatochi eruption in Alaska and the 2015 Calbuco eruption in Chile, sent substantial amounts of water vapor to such altitudes. Both dissipated quickly – and neither of those events compare to the massive amount of water released by the Tonga Incident.
Powerful volcanic eruptions typically cool the surface temperature on Earth because the resulting ash reflects sunlight. Although Tonga explosion Marks a clear contrast, as the water vapor released from it can trap heat.
“This may be the first volcanic eruption to affect climate not through surface cooling caused by volcanic sulfate aerosols, but through surface warming,” the researchers said.
Experts say this water vapor could remain in the stratosphere for many years, potentially causing a temporary depletion of the ozone layer and increased surface temperatures. Water can last for decades, but it shouldn’t have a lasting effect.
“When the extra water vapor moves out of the stratosphere and is no longer enough to markedly amplify the effects of climate change, the effect will end,” the scientists say.
Experts point to the underwater volcano’s caldera, a basin-shaped depression about 490 feet deep, as the cause of the record-breaking eruption. If the caldera was shallow, the seawater would not have been hot enough to account for water vapor measurements, and if it were any deeper, the intense pressure could have silenced the eruption.