August 10, 2022

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Tonga volcano released an unprecedented amount of water into the atmosphere

Tonga volcano released an unprecedented amount of water into the atmosphere

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The Hengja Tonga-Hung Hapai eruption lasted less than a day, but released the largest amount of water vapor into the atmosphere by a recorded volcano. The researchers say the eruption could temporarily warm surface temperatures in the coming years and also deplete the stratospheric ozone layer.

On January 15, the underwater volcano erupted and Send a shock wave It resonates all over the world. The powerful explosion ejected aerosols, gas, steam, and ash as high as 36 miles, possibly highest volcanic column in satellite records. The blast destroyed more than 100 homes and killed at least three people on the island of Tonga. a New study It also shows that the volcano released an unprecedented amount of water vapor, one of the powerful greenhouse gases that traps heat on Earth.

NASA satellite data shows that the volcano released more than 146 teragrams of water – enough to fill 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools – into the second layer of Earth’s atmosphere, known as the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is and just above the place. Planes fly. The study stated that the amount released was equivalent to 10 percent of the water already in the stratosphere.

“This is the first time this kind of injection has happened in the entire satellite era,” said Luis Millan, lead study author and NASA atmospheric scientist, which includes water vapor data going back to 1995. “We haven’t seen anything like this from before, so that was impressive.”

Volcanic eruptions release different types of gases and particles. Most volcanic eruptions, including the Hunga Tonga, release particles that cool the Earth’s surface by reflecting sunlight back into space, but they usually dissipate after two to three years. However, very few people blow water vapor extremely high. This water vapor can stay longer in the atmosphere – five to ten years – and trap heat at the Earth’s surface.

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Milan believes that water vapor could begin to have a warming effect on the planet’s surface temperature once the associated cooling particles dissipate in about three years. He’s not sure how much the temperature will rise, because it depends on how the column of water vapor develops. The team believes the warming will continue for a few years, until circulation patterns in the stratosphere push water vapor into the troposphere, the layer where Earth’s weather occurs.

“This is just a temporary rise in temperatures, after which it will go back to what it was supposed to be back to,” Milan said. “It will not exacerbate climate change.”

NASA atmospheric scientist Ryan Kramer added that due to the many factors that lead to temperature changes on time scales of years, the greenhouse effect from a volcano can also be lost in noise, depending on its size.

on shorter On a time scale, increased water vapor could also exacerbate stratospheric ozone depletion, Susan Strahan, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and NASA said on a time scale.

Stratospheric ozone protects the Earth’s surface from harmful ultraviolet rays. Chemicals that deplete the ozone layer were largely phased out through the 1987 Montreal Protocol and subsequent amendments.

Strahan, who was not involved in the study, explained that the excess water vapor would affect many of the chemical reactions that control stratospheric ozone concentrations. NASA space data released in July showed a decrease in ozone levels, compared to previous years at the location where the excess water vapor is concentrated. She added that a full analysis would be required to elicit the cause.

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There may be effects now, but what we need [is] The pattern that tells us is the mechanism(s) by which the effects occurred. Almost all of meteorology and chemistry will play roles – the questions are: how much, where and when? Strahan said in an email.

Strahan also said that excess water vapor can promote the formation of special nocturnal clouds, which appear as shimmering, ghost-like wisps of the night sky. They occur about 50 miles in the atmosphere, higher than the stratosphere, and are among the rarest, driest, and highest clouds on Earth. For many people, clouds provide a great view of the sky. but, Researchers believe No noticeable change in these clouds will appear until much later, depending on how long it takes for the water vapor to move up into the atmosphere where the clouds form.

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Overall, Milan said that excess water vapor doesn’t matter much on its own but it is “an interesting thing going on”. He and his colleagues are taking this opportunity to test their computer models that help us understand climate change and predict weather in general.

“We have these massive amounts of water vapor moving in the stratosphere, and we can test how well the models reflect their movements within the atmosphere,” Milan said. “This volcano is going to give a lot of researchers a lot of work.”