by Brandon Gage
August 03, 2022
On January 15th,
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted, spewing
tons of gas and ash into the atmosphere.
According to a
Wednesday report by
National Public Radio, the
blast contained enough water vapor - notorious for its heat-trapping
abilities - to temporarily raise Earth's temperature.
amount of water vapor is roughly 10 percent of the normal amount
of vapor found in the stratosphere, equaling more than 58,000
Olympic-size swimming pools," NPR wrote.
"came from a
volcano that's more than 12 miles wide, with a caldera sitting
roughly 500 feet below sea level.
earlier, Tongan officials
reported the volcano was in a continuous eruption, sending a
3-mile-wide plume of steam and ash into the sky.
Then the big
blast came, sending ash, gases and vapor as high as 35 miles - a
record in the satellite era - into the atmosphere," per NPR.
In a July paper
Geophysical Research Letters, scientists discovered
that Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha',
"may be the
first volcanic eruption observed to impact climate not through
surface cooling caused by volcanic sulfate aerosols, but rather
through surface warming."
Water vapor lingers
in the air, which contributes to its ability to retain heat.
takes around 2-3 years for sulfate aerosols from volcanoes to
fall out of the stratosphere.
But the water from the Jan. 15
eruption could take 5-10 years to fully dissipate," NPR
seen anything like it," said atmospheric scientist Luis Millán,
who led the research team and works at the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
The volume of water
was "unprecedented," Luis Millán noted.
pathways for direct injection of H2O into the stratosphere
exist: overshooting convection, pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb)
storms, and volcanic eruptions."
Millán added that,
eruption injected at least 146 ± 5 Tg of H2O into the
stratosphere, not only surpassing the magnitudes of all other
injections in the MLS record, but also eclipsing a theoretical
estimate of 37.5 Tg from Pinatubo."
'Tg' stands for
'teragram' - or a trillion grams.
concluded in his paper, is "an exceptional amount of H2O."