Study: Steam from Tonga Volcano May Warm Earth for Years

Scientists continue to analyze the aftermath of Tonga’s underwater volcanic eruption more than eight months ago on January 14 and have found that its vapors could contribute to global warming for years to come.

The researchers calculated that the volcanic eruption of Honga Tong-Hung Hapa released 50 million tons (45 million metric tons) of water vapor into the atmosphere, as well as huge amounts of ash and volcanic gases.

This massive introduction of steam increased the amount of moisture in the global stratosphere by about 5% and could lead to a cycle of stratospheric cooling and surface heating, effects that could continue for months, according to a new study.

The Tonga eruption, which began on January 13 and peaked two days later, was the most powerful eruption the planet has seen in decades. 20 km) into the air, according to the Department of National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA).

Large volcanic eruptions typically cool the planet by releasing sulfur dioxide into Earth’s upper atmosphere, which filters out solar radiation, and rock and ash particles can also temporarily cool the planet by blocking sunlight, according to the National University Foundation for Atmospheric Research. for the National Science Foundation.

Large-scale violent volcanic activity in the Earth’s distant past may have contributed to global climate change, causing mass extinctions millions of years ago.

Recent eruptions have also demonstrated the ability of volcanoes to cool the planet. In 1991, when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines blew its top off, aerosols from that major volcanic eruption lowered global temperatures by about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius) by at least one year. This is stated in the Live Science post mentioned earlier.

Tonga released about 441,000 tons (400,000 metric tons) of sulfur dioxide, about 2% of the amount released by Mount Pinatubo during the 1991 eruption, but unlike Pinatubo (and most major volcanic eruptions occur on land), volcanic plumes The Tonga sent “large amounts of water” underwater into the stratosphere, a region that extends from 31 miles (50 km) above the Earth’s surface to 4-12 miles (6-20 km), according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

The researchers analyzed the amount of water in the plumes by evaluating data collected using instruments called radiosondes, which were attached to weather balloons and sent data high into the plumes to a ground receiver, NWS reported.

Atmospheric water vapor absorbs solar radiation and re-radiates it as heat. As tens of millions of tons of Tonga’s moisture is now deflected into the stratosphere, the Earth’s surface will heat up, though it’s unclear how much, according to the study. But because the steam is lighter than other volcanic sprays and less subject to gravitational pull, this heating effect will take longer to dissipate, and surface heating could continue “in the coming months,” the scientists say.

Previous studies of the eruption have shown that Tonga released enough water vapor to fill 58,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, and that this huge amount of moisture in the atmosphere could weaken the ozone layer.

In the new study, the scientists determined that these massive amounts of water vapor may actually change the chemical cycles that control stratospheric ozone, but detailed studies will be needed to determine the effect on ozone, as other chemical reactions may play an important role. role in this control.

Source: Living Science