What shot 146 million tons of water into the atmosphere? ‘Looking’ at NASA’s satellites, surprise experts

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2022-08-11 08:34:25

According to images observed from NASA satellites, what can blow 146 million tons of water vapor into the atmosphere is the volcanic eruption in Tonga. The eruption occurred in January 2022.

Specifically, on January 15, when the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on the seabed, about 65 kilometers north of Tonga, it generated a tsunami wave and sonic boom in 2 hours. consecutive times.

Follow National Geographic, the sonic boom is heard from New Zealand, which is more than 2,100 km away. In addition, there was a shock wave traveling halfway around the world, as far as England, which was more than 16,000 km away. At one point, the Tonga volcano had 200,000 discharges per hour.

What shot 146 million tons of water into the atmosphere?  'Looking' at NASA's satellites, surprised experts - Photo 1.

Image of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupting from above. Photo: Reuters

In addition, the volcanic eruption also sent a large amount of water vapor into the stratosphere, which is 12 to 53 km above the Earth’s surface.

According to experts, based on calculations from NASA satellites, this huge amount of water vapor is enough to can fill the volume of 58,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

This unexpected discovery was made by the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite. In fact, the Aura satellite can measure water vapor, the quality of the ozone layer and other gases in the atmosphere.

However, after the volcanic eruption in Tonga occurred, scientists were extremely surprised by the results of the water vapor measurement.

Experts estimate that this eruption sent 146 teragrams, equivalent to 146 million tons of water, to the stratosphere. This is equal to 10% of the water already in the stratosphere. In addition, this amount of water vapor is even nearly 4 times more than the amount generated since the Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines in 1991.

New research on water vapor detection has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters last July.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said Luis Millan, study author and atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Therefore, the research team had to conduct careful checks on all the measurements inside the device to ensure accuracy and reliability.”

The MLS is a tool that can measure the natural signal of microwaves from the Earth’s atmosphere and then estimate it in the event of dense ash clouds.

Mr. Luis Millan said: “MLS is the only instrument with dense enough coverage to record the plume of water as natural phenomena occur. In addition, it is also the only instrument that is not affected by ash produced by volcanoes.

The Aura satellite was launched in 2004 and has since measured two volcanic eruptions that have significantly evaporated water from the atmosphere. However, the water vapor from the massive Kasatochi eruption in the US in 2008 and the Calbuco eruption in Chile in 2015, dissipated rather quickly.

According to experts, the volcanic eruption in Tonga has a distinctive feature because water vapor that is blown into the atmosphere can trap heat. This makes the Earth’s surface temperature warmer. This excess water vapor can persist for several years in the stratosphere.

The researchers believe that the reason the water vapor is trapped is because the crater’s depth is 150 meters below the ocean’s surface.

Excess water vapor in the stratosphere can also lead to temporary chemical reactions that contribute to the depletion of Earth’s protective ozone layer.

Fortunately, the warming effect of steam is thought to be relatively small and only temporary. Specifically, the temperature will return to normal when the excess steam is reduced. In addition, the researchers also say, this situation is not enough to exacerbate the conditions that cause the climate crisis. Instead, it only had an effect for a short time.

Abnormalities in Tonga Volcano Eruptions

According to experts, the volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apa has been active for decades. In the past, this volcano has awakened in 2009 and between 2014 and 2015. However, these are only small events compared to the shocking eruption in January 2022.

What shot 146 million tons of water into the atmosphere?  'Looking' at NASA's satellites, surprised experts - Photo 3.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean erupted in satellite images on January 15, 2022. Photo: Theguardian.

Professor Shane Cronin, an expert in Earth sciences at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said that the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apa volcano on January 15, 2022 is considered to be the one of the millennial explosions has one and it originates from the accumulation of many previous eruptions.

Even, according to some experts, the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano earlier this year released a huge amount of energy, equivalent to hundreds of atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima city. Japan) in 1945.

In May 2022, Professor Shane Cronin led a research team sailing through the site of the central depression that formed when the volcano erupted. Experts used sonar to map the crater’s structure.

As a result, experts discovered, the 4 km wide crater was initially 200 m deep below sea level, but after the eruption, it was about 850 m deep.

According to expert Shane Cronin, during the formation of the giant crater, about 6.5 km3 of rock was thrown out, equivalent to a sphere with the diameter of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (California).

According to this research team, the cause of the eruption, which created the new depth of the crater, was probably due to the interaction between a large amount of magma and water when the volcano began to erupt.

Professor Shane Cronin said, when the volcano erupts, 20 degrees Celsius water in direct contact with magma hot to 1,110 degrees Celsius. It is such a large temperature difference that causes water to explode when forced into contact with magma. In fact, each such interaction pushes the water deeper into the magma. This increases the contact surface area, while creating subsequent explosions in a chain reaction.

The team added that ash particles collected in Tonga after the volcanic eruption also show that there is a violent interaction between seawater and magma. According to geologist Joali Paredes-Mariño at the University of Auckland, when seawater comes into contact with magma, it creates a shock wave strong enough to crack the ash particles.

The special structure of the Tonga volcano

In terms of classification, according to Professor Emeritus Richard Arculus, a volcanologist at the Australian National University, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is classified as an underwater volcano. But this volcano has a special feature that its crater protrudes above the water.

What shot 146 million tons of water into the atmosphere?  'Looking' at NASA's satellites, surprised experts - Photo 4.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Crater. Photo: NASA

The crater becomes a large crater between the two islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai. NASA said that these two islands were also formed from volcanic eruptions.

Professor Arculus added that the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano has been quite active in the past 15 years. This volcano has erupted in 1912, 1937, 1988, 2009, 2015 and most recently in January 2022.

Professor Arculus described the eruption on January 15 as a massive explosion that opened up the crater. Observation of satellite images shows that the explosion on the sea surface created an extremely violent shock wave and spread horizontally.

The explosion created a huge gap in the inside of the crater and caused seawater to rush in. This amount of seawater then bounces back and forms a tsunami that reaches the shore. Accordingly, many countries on both sides of the Pacific Ocean such as the US, Canada, and New Zealand have issued tsunami warnings.

Experts also said that it is difficult to predict exactly when the next eruption will occur at the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano.

Source referenced article: CNN, Nature, ABC, NatGeo

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