The violent eruption of Tonga’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Jan. 15, 2022, injected an unprecedented quantity of water straight into the stratosphere – sufficient to fill greater than 58,000 Olympic-size swimming swimming pools.
“We’ve by no means seen something prefer it,” stated Luis Millán, an atmospheric scientist who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
When the volcano erupted, seawater got here into direct contact with erupting lava and was superheated, creating “explosive steam.”
NASA scientists say that the vapor will keep for years, possible affecting the Earth’s international common temperature. Usually the vapor takes round 2-3 years to dissipate, however the water from the Jan. 15 eruption might take 5-10 years to evaporate.
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai “will be the first volcanic eruption noticed to impression local weather not by way of floor cooling attributable to volcanic sulfate aerosols, however slightly by way of floor warming,” Millán hypothesized in a paper.
Millán led a examine analyzing the quantity of water vapor that the volcano injected into the stratosphere, the layer of the ambiance between about 8 and 33 miles (12 and 53 kilometers) above Earth’s floor.
Millán and his colleagues’ discovered that the Tonga volcano despatched round 146 tetragrams (1 tetragram equals a trillion grams) of water vapor into the Earth’s stratosphere. The quantity of water launched within the stratosphere is the same as 10% of the water already current within the atmospheric layer. Their analysis was printed in Geophysical Research Letters.
The eruption got here from a volcano that’s greater than 12 miles large. Someday earlier than the huge eruption, Tongan officers reported on Fb the volcano was frequently erupting. Within the put up, they reported that the volcano was sending a 3 mile-wide column plume of ash, steam and gasoline rising to an altitude of 35 miles into the ambiance.
The researchers additionally famous how the water vapor might weaken the ozone layer that protects life on Earth from damaging radiation from the solar.
The examine authors stated it’s nonetheless too early to foretell the precise climatic results of the Tonga eruption. “It’s crucial to proceed monitoring volcanic gases from this eruption and future ones to raised quantify their various roles in local weather,” Millán wrote.