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Somebody the most powerful volcanic eruptions on the planet According to detections from a NASA satellite, it sprayed such a large amount of water vapor into the atmosphere that it is likely to temporarily warm the Earth’s surface.
When the undersea Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on January 15, 65 kilometers north of Tonga’s capital, it created a tsunami as well as a sonic boom that shook the world twice.
The eruption sent a long plume of water vapor into the stratosphere, located between 8 and 33 miles (12 and 53 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface. According to determinations from a NASA satellite, there was enough water to fill 58,000 Olympic swimming pools.
The detection was made by the Microwave Limb Siren instrument aboard NASA’s Aura satellite. The satellite measures water vapor, ozone and other atmospheric gases. After the explosion occurred, the scientists were surprised by the water vapor readings.
They estimate that the explosion released 146 teragrams of water into the stratosphere. One teragram equals one trillion grams, which in this case is equal to 10% of the water currently in the stratosphere.
That’s nearly four times the amount of water vapor reaching the stratosphere after the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines.
A new study on water vapor findings published in July Geophysical Research Letters.
“We’ve never seen anything like it before,” said study author Luis Millán, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “We had to carefully examine all the measurements on the feather to make sure they were reliable.”
The Microwave Limb Siren device can measure the natural signals of microwaves from Earth’s atmosphere and detect it even through thick ash clouds.
“The MLS was the only device with coverage dense enough to capture the water vapor cloud as it is, and the only device unaffected by the ash emitted by the volcano,” Millán said. Said.
The Aura satellite was launched in 2004 and has since been able to measure two volcanic eruptions that created significant amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere. But water vapor from the 2008 Kasatochi event in Alaska and the 2015 Calbuco eruption in Chile dissipated rather quickly.
Typically, powerful volcanic eruptions such as Mount Pinatubo or the 1883 Krakatoa event in Indonesia cool the Earth’s surface temperature as the gas, dust, and ash they spew out reflect sunlight into space. This “volcanic winter” occurred after the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 and “year without summer” in 1816.
The Tongan eruption was different because the water vapor it sent into the atmosphere could trap heat, resulting in warmer surface temperatures. According to the researchers, excess water vapor can remain in the stratosphere for several years.
Additional water vapor in the stratosphere can also lead to chemical reactions that temporarily contribute to the depletion of Earth’s protective ozone.
Fortunately, the warming effect of water vapor is expected to be small and temporary and will dissipate as the extra steam decreases. Researchers do not believe that it will be enough to make current conditions worse due to the climate crisis.
Researchers believe the main reason for the high amount of water vapor is due to the depth of the volcano’s caldera 490 feet (150 meters) below the ocean’s surface.
If it were too deep, the ocean’s depth would have silenced the eruption, and it was too shallow, the amount of seawater heated by the erupting magma would not match what reaches the stratosphere, the researchers said.
Scientists are still working to understand the unusually energetic explosion and all its advantages, including. hurricane-force winds reaching space.