Hunga Tonga eruption sent colossal amounts of water into the atmosphere

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’Apai volcano erupted last January. Like all submarine volcanoes, it expelled water vapor into the atmosphere. Like all submarine volcanoes. But in a colossal amount that amazed the researchers. So much so that now the question of the possible global consequences for the Planet and its climate is raised.

Last January, a volcano submarine with an extended name, baptized as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’Apai, it erupted in the Pacific. In the process, a tsunamitsunami swept across the Tonga islands, affecting almost 90,000 people. The sound of this powerful eruption circled the Earth twice! At the beginning of summer, researchers of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, United States) taught us that the anger of volcanovolcano it also projected an absolutely colossal amount of water vapor into the melodiesmelodies. Enough to fill almost 60,000 Olympic swimming pools!

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’Apai: portrait of the giant underwater volcano that erupted on January 15

“We’ve never seen anything like it”comments Luis Millán, a JPL researcher, in a release. “It was a once in a lifetime event”confirms Holger Voemel, researcher at National Center for Atmospheric Research (USA) and author of additional job on the issue published in September. According to their figures, they are nothing less than 146 teragrams, or 146 billion kilogramskilograms of water vapor that the Hunga Tonga volcano sent directly to the stratosphere — and even a little higher –, the layer of theatmosphereatmosphere which is between 15 and 50 kilometers above the ground. This is almost four times more than what was expelled by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo (Philippines) in 1991. And no less than 10% of the total amount of water vapor already present at this level of the atmosphere.

This is all the more remarkable as it is still rare for Volcanic eruptionsVolcanic eruptions inject water vapor into the stratosphere. Almost 20 years since the POTPOT take readings. And that had only happened twice before. During the Kasatochi event (Alaska) in 2008 and during the Calbuco eruption (Chile) in 2015. In proportions far from being comparable, moreover. The excess water vapor had rapidly dissipated. This time, it could persist for up to ten years.

Consequences for life on Earth?

The researchers attribute the phenomenon to a kind of position “ideal” of the boilerboiler of the volcano about 150 meters deep. deeper and the PressurePressure of the ocean would have attenuatedattenuated shallower eruption and there would have been much less superheated water to form steam.

The problem is that the presence of water steam in the environment it is not as neutral and innocent as it might seem at first glance. Because in the stratosphere, water vapor tends to produce radicals that carry electronselectrons “individual”. What makes them highly reagentsreagents. They tend to destroyozoneozone. However, it is stratospheric ozone that protects life from radiation. ultravioletultraviolet harmful that comes to us from SunSun. But it is difficult for researchers to conclude with certainty on this topic. Knowing that they have never studied an eruption like the Hunga Tonga volcano. The only thing they know for sure is that they were able to measure water levels in the stratosphere using weather balloons, which are usually not sensitive enough for that.

Water vapor also plays a fairly direct role in the greenhouse effect. It is even a fairly effective greenhouse gas. Because it can absorb radiation. infraredinfrared emitted by our Earth in a wide range of frequencies. Therefore, the Hunga Tonga volcano eruption and the massive injection of water vapor that followed should have at least a one-time effect, potentially several years anyway, once the carbon dioxide sulfursulfur refreshing dissipated — in average temperatures. Raising them a little higher. However, the expected effects should remain minimal and temporary. Regarding the possible significant long-term consequences on the global warming anthropogenic, scientists are still divided.

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