Tonga volcano eruption may take temporary toll on climate

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 27, 2022

A volcanic eruption occurred underwater in the Pacific Ocean in January. The huge eruption near produced a global shock so extensive it sprayed a large amount of water vapor into the stratosphere – enough to fill over 58,000 Olympic swimming pools. This spew of water vapor may cause a short-term upsurge in global warming.  

The eruption on Jan. 15 of the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcano in the island nation of Tonga destroyed 90 percent of the uninhabited island of Hunga Tonga Ha’apai after sparking a Tsunami. The eruption also assembled an ash plume half the size of France. Because the volcano was 500 feet below water, molten rock and seawater combined, and the water vapor reached an altitude of 35 miles. 

The amount of water vapor spewing into the upper atmosphere was at least 55 million tons, which may temporarily cause more depletion in the ozone layer, which protects the world from harmful rays from the sun. 

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said Luis Millán, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and leader of a study examining Tonga volcano effects. Above-ground volcanos don’t release as much water and instead release sulfur dioxide, causing a cooling effect. But, the underwater volcano created a warming effect because of the amount of water vapor spewed into the stratosphere.

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