The huge amount of steam of water bold into the atmosphere by the January explosive eruption of the Tonga volcano could be enough to temporarily heat the Earth’s surface, according to a press release from NASA, through its Propulsion Laboratory.
“When he volcano Tonga-Hunga Sa’apai broke out on January 15, sent a tsunami that swept across the world and caused a sonic boom that circled the globe twice. The submarine eruption in the South Pacific Ocean also released a huge column of water vapor in the Earth’s stratosphere, enough to fill more than 58,000 Olympic swimming pools”NASA confirms in its report.
“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said Luis Millán, an atmospheric scientist at the NASA Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. He has conducted a new study examining the amount of water vapor that the Tonga volcano injected into the stratospherethe layer of atmosphere between about 12 and 53 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
In the study published in Geophysical Research LettersMillán and his colleagues estimate that the Tonga eruption sent about 146 teragrams of water vapor into Earth’s stratosphere, equivalent to 10% of the water already present in this layer of the atmosphere. That’s nearly four times the amount of water vapor that scientists estimate the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines released into the stratosphere.
Millán analyzed data from the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) instrument of the NASA’s Aura satellite, which measures atmospheric gases, including water vapor and ozone. After the Tonga volcano erupted, the MLS team began to see readings of water vapor that were off the charts. “We had to carefully inspect all the measurements on the plume to make sure they were reliable,” Millán said.
volcanic eruptions they rarely inject much water into the stratosphere. In the 18 years that NASA has taken measurements, only two other eruptions, the event Kasatochi 2008 in Alaska and the eruption of Calbuco the 2015 and Chile, they sent appreciable amounts of water vapor to these high altitudes. But these were only flashes compared to the Tonga event, and the water vapor from the previous two eruptions quickly dissipated. The excess water vapor injected by the Tonga volcano, on the other hand, it could remain in the stratosphere for several years.
This extra water vapor could influence atmospheric chemistry, leading to certain chemical reactions that may temporarily aggravate the depletion of the ozone layer. Also could influence surface temperatures.
Massive volcanic eruptions like Krakatoa there Mounted Adult they typically cool the Earth’s surface by expelling gases, dust, and ash that reflect sunlight back into space. On the contrary, the Tonga volcano did not inject large amounts of aerosol into the stratosphere, and the huge amounts of water vapor from the eruption may have a small temporary warming effect, as the water vapor retains heat. The effect would dissipate as the additional water vapor left the stratosphere and would not be enough to significantly worsen the effects of climate change.
How was it possible?
The explanation offered by the NASA laboratory confirms that the large amount of water injected into the stratosphere was probably only possible because the caldera of the underwater volcanoa basin-like depression that usually forms after the eruption or drainage of magma from a shallow chamber beneath the volcano, it was at the right depth in the ocean: about 150 meters deep. Shallower, and there wouldn’t be enough superheated seawater from erupting magma to explain the stratospheric water vapor values that Millán and his colleagues saw. Deeper, and the immense pressures in the deep ocean could have silenced the eruption.
The MLS instrument was well placed to detect this water vapor plume because it sees the natural microwave signals emitted by the Earth’s atmosphere. Measuring these signals allows the MLS to “see” through obstacles such as ash clouds that can blind other instruments that measure water vapor in the stratosphere. “MLS was the only instrument with dense enough coverage to capture the water vapor plume at the time it occurred, and the only one that was unaffected by the ash released from the volcano,” said Millan.