When a volcano erupts, there are lava flows and plumes of smoke. But when said volcano is a submarine volcano, there can also be ejection into the atmosphere of water vapour. And in the case of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’Apai volcano, which erupted last January, it was colossal amounts of water vapour.
Last January, awith an extended name — baptized Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’Apai — erupted in the Pacific. A tsunami followed which affected nearly 90,000 people in the Tonga Islands. The sound of this powerful eruption circled the ! And today, (JPL, USA) tell us that the anger of the also projected an absolutely colossal quantity of water vapor into the . Enough to fill nearly 60,000 Olympic swimming pools!
“We have never seen anything like it”comments Luis Millan, researcher at JPL, in a. According to his figures, it is no less than 146 teragrams, or 146 billion of water vapor that the Hunga Tonga volcano sent directly into the — and even a little above — the layer of the atmosphere that is between 15 and 50 kilometers above the ground. This is almost four times more than what was ejected by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo (Philippines) in 1991. And no less than 10% of the total quantity of water vapor already present at this level of the atmosphere .
This is all the more remarkable as it remains rare forinject water vapor into the . Almost 20 years since the take readings. And that had only happened two other times. During the event of Kasatochi (Alaska) in 2008 and during the eruption of Calbuco (Chile) in 2015. In proportions very far from being comparable, in addition. The excess water vapor had quickly dissipated. This time, it could persist for up to ten years.
When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on January 15, it sent a tsunami around the world and set off a sonic boom that circled the globe twice. The eruption also sent a plume into the stratosphere with enough water vapor to fill more than 58,000 Olympic swimming pools. pic.twitter.com/dmOjQle6dq
— NASA Climate (@NASAClimate) August 2, 2022
Consequences for life on Earth?
Researchers attribute the phenomenon to a kind of position “ideal” ofof the volcano some 150 meters deep. Deeper and the of the ocean would have the eruption. Shallower and there would have been much less superheated water to form steam.
The problem is that the presence ofin the atmosphere is not so neutral and innocent as it might seem at first glance. Because in the stratosphere, water vapor tends to produce radicals that carry “singles”. What makes them highly . They tend to destroy the . But stratospheric ozone is the one that protects life from radiation harmful that comes to us from .
Water vapor also plays a fairly direct role on the. It is even a rather effective greenhouse gas. Because it can absorb radiation emitted by our Earth over a wide range of frequencies. Thus the eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano and the massive injection of water vapor that followed should have at least a one-time effect — potentially several years all the same, once the carbon dioxide refreshing dissipated — on average temperatures. Raising them a little more. As for a possible longer-term significant effect on the anthropogenic, scientists remain divided for the time being.