Tonga’s volcano spews enough water to fill 58,000 Olympic swimming pools into the stratosphere.

An umbrella cloud generated by the underwater eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Jan. 15, 2022.
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Violent eruption Tonga’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Volcano On January 15, 2022, an unprecedented amount of water was shot directly into the stratosphere—enough to fill more than 58,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Luis Millan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA. Reactive motion laboratory.

When a volcano erupts, seawater comes into direct contact with the erupting lava and is superheated, creating “explosive steam”.

An umbrella eruption cloud created by the underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano in January.  15, 2022.

An umbrella eruption cloud created by the underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in January. 15, 2022.
(NASA Earth Observatory photo by Joshua Stevens using GOES imagery courtesy of NOAA and NESDIS)

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NASA scientists say the vapor will remain for years, likely to have an effect Earth’s global average temperature. Normally it takes about 2-3 years for the steam to dissipate, but the water from January. 15 eruptions can take 5-10 years to evaporate.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai “may be the first volcanic eruption to affect climate by surface warming rather than by surface cooling caused by volcanic sulfate aerosols,” Millan hypothesized in a paper.

Millan led a study that examined the amount of water vapor the volcano produced is shot into the stratosphereThe layer of the atmosphere between about 8 and 33 miles (12 and 53 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface.

Millan and his colleagues found that Tonga volcano It sent about 146 tetragrams (1 tetragram is equal to one trillion grams) of water vapor into the Earth’s stratosphere. The amount of water thrown into the stratosphere is equal to 10% of the water already present in the atmosphere. Their research was published Geophysical Research Letters.


The eruption came from a volcano more than 12 miles wide. A day before the massive eruption, Tonga officials announced on Facebook that the volcano was continuing to erupt. In the paper, they reported that the volcano sent a 3-mile-wide plume of ash, steam, and gas that rose high. 35 miles into the atmosphere.

The researchers also noted how water vapor can weaken the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from harmful radiation from the sun.


The authors of the study said it was too early to predict the precise climate effects of the Tonga eruption. “It is important to continue monitoring this eruption and future volcanic gases to better appreciate their various roles in climate,” Millan said.

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