Shock wave from Tonga volcano eruption hits space

(ORDO NEWS) — On January 15, 2022, the whole world felt the waves emanating from the erupting volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai. These waves swept across the planet and even reached space.

A few hours after the start of the eruption, scientists discovered an unusual formation of hurricane-force winds and unusual electric currents in the ionosphere – the electrified upper layer of the Earth‘s atmosphere.

When scientists analyzed satellite data, they found a dramatic change in space.

“The volcano has created one of the largest perturbations in space. This allows us to test a poorly understood link between the lower atmosphere and space,” said UCLA physicist Brian Harding.

The spacecraft was passing over South America when it observed a ground disturbance in the ionosphere caused by a South Pacific volcano.

What happened?

When the volcano erupted, the researchers said, it pushed a giant plume of gases, water vapor and dust into the sky. The explosion also created strong pressure drops in the atmosphere, resulting in strong winds.

As these winds rose into the thinner layers of the atmosphere, they began to move even faster. Thus the winds reached 450 miles per hour, making them the strongest winds below 120 miles.

“These results are new insights into how events on Earth can affect weather in space. Understanding space weather will ultimately help us mitigate its impact on society,” said NASA space weather chief Jim Spann.

In the ionosphere, extreme winds have also affected electrical currents. Particles in the Earth’s ionosphere regularly generate an electric current flowing eastward.

After the eruption, the equatorial flow increased five times its normal peak power and abruptly changed direction to the west.


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