(ORDO NEWS) — The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai volcano in the Pacific Ocean occurred in January 2022, and its consequences may have a planetary scale. A new study found that the eruption increased the amount of water in the stratosphere by about five percent.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Volcano spewed millions of tons of water vapor high into the atmosphere. His water explosion was not only huge, but also very unusual. Scientists around the world are still trying to understand the consequences of this eruption.
The January 2022 Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano eruption was so violent that its plume penetrated the stratosphere and expelled at least 50 teragrams (500 gigatons) of water vapor into the second layer of the atmosphere, a study published in the journal Science says.
“Large volcanic eruptions, although rare events, can affect the chemistry and dynamics of the stratosphere for several years after an eruption.
This event increased the amount of water vapor in the developing stratospheric plume by several orders of magnitude and may have increased the amount of global stratospheric water vapor by more than 5%,” the paper says.
Lead author Holger Wemel, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told The Associated Press that such an event happens once in a lifetime. Usually big explosions cool the planet, but the Tonga explosion was much wetter.
Because the water vapor acts as a greenhouse gas that traps heat, the eruption is likely to raise temperatures rather than lower them. However, scientists have yet to figure out how much warming is possible.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatologist Karen Rosenlof, who was not involved in the study, told The Associated Press that “such an increase [of water in the atmosphere] could lead to a slight heating of the surface for a short period of time.”
The stratosphere extends about 12-50 km above the Earth and is usually very dry. The researchers assessed the volcano’s plume using a network of instruments suspended from weather balloons, while another team monitored the explosion with an instrument on a NASA satellite.
An earlier study showed that the volcanic eruption spewed a huge column of water vapor into the stratosphere, enough to fill more than 58,000 Olympic-sized pools.
The volcanic eruption in the South Pacific Ocean on January 15, 2022 caused tsunami waves around the world, and the blast wave circled the planet twice in a few hours.
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