When the undersea Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on January 15, 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Tonga’s capital, it created a tsunami in addition to a sonic growth that rippled all over the world — twice.
The eruption despatched a tall plume of water vapor into the stratosphere, which is positioned between 8 and 33 miles (12 and 53 kilometers) above the Earth’s floor. It was sufficient water to fill 58,000 Olympic-sized swimming swimming pools, in accordance with detections from a NASA satellite tv for pc.
The detection was made by the Microwave Limb Sounder instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite tv for pc. The satellite tv for pc measures water vapor, ozone and different atmospheric gases. After the eruption occurred, the scientists have been shocked by the water vapor readings.
They estimate that the eruption delivered 146 teragrams of water to the stratosphere. One teragram is the equal of a trillion grams, and on this case, it was equal to 10% of the water already current within the stratosphere.
That is practically 4 occasions the quantity of water vapor that reached the stratosphere after the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption within the Philippines.
“We have by no means seen something prefer it,” mentioned examine creator Luis Millán, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, in a press release. “We needed to fastidiously examine all of the measurements within the plume to ensure they have been reliable.”
Maintaining a tally of Earth
The Microwave Limb Sounder instrument can measure pure alerts of microwaves from Earth’s ambiance and detect them even via thick ash clouds.
“MLS was the one instrument with dense sufficient protection to seize the water vapor plume because it occurred, and the one one which wasn’t affected by the ash that the volcano launched,” Millán mentioned.
The Aura satellite tv for pc launched in 2004 and since then it has solely measured two volcanic eruptions that lofted substantial water vapor so excessive up within the ambiance. However the water vapor from the 2008 Kasatochi occasion in Alaska and the 2015 Calbuco eruption in Chile dissipated somewhat shortly.
The Tonga eruption was completely different as a result of the water vapor it despatched into the ambiance can lure warmth, which might trigger hotter floor temperatures. The surplus water vapor might keep within the stratosphere for a number of years, in accordance with the researchers.
The extra water vapor within the stratosphere might additionally result in chemical reactions that briefly contribute to the depletion of Earth’s protecting ozone.
Anatomy of an eruption
Happily, the warming impact of the water vapor is anticipated to be small and non permanent, and can dissipate as the additional vapor diminishes. The researchers do not consider will probably be sufficient to exacerbate current circumstances because of the local weather disaster.
The researchers consider the primary cause for the quantity of lofted water vapor was because of the depth of the volcano’s caldera 490 ft (150 meters) under the ocean’s floor.
If it was too deep, the depth of the ocean would have muted the eruption, and it was too shallow, the quantity of seawater heated by the erupting magma would not have matched what reached the stratosphere, the researchers mentioned.