A new study estimates that the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption released millions of tons of water vapor into the sky.
In January, an undersea volcano in Tonga erupted, producing a large and unexpected watery blast that scientists are still attempting to fully comprehend.
According to a study published on Thursday in the journal Science, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano ejected millions of tons of water vapor into the atmosphere.
The second layer of the atmosphere, above the range where people live and breathe, is called the stratosphere. According to the researchers, the eruption increased the amount of water in the stratosphere by about 5%.
Currently, researchers are attempting to determine how all that water might impact the atmosphere and whether it might cause Earth’s surface to warm in the coming years.
Lead author Holger Voemel, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, said, “This was a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
The planet frequently cools after large eruptions. According to Matthew Toohey, a climate researcher at the University of Saskatchewan who was not involved in the study, the majority of volcanoes emit significant amounts of sulfur, which disperses clouds and blocks the sun’s rays.
The Tongan explosion had far more water in it than typical because it originated under the ocean. Furthermore, the eruption is likely to increase temperatures rather than decrease them because water vapor functions as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, according to Toohey.