Hunga Tonga Hunga Haapai Eruption Releases Tallest Volcanic Plume Ever Recorded: ScienceAlert

Hunga Tonga Hunga Haapai Eruption Releases Tallest Volcanic Plume Ever Recorded: ScienceAlert

In January 2022, a spectacular and explosive volcanic eruption produced the very best plume of steam and ash on document.

The towering column that arose from Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapa reached an unlimited top of 57 kilometers (35 miles) above sea stage.

This top makes it the primary volcanic eruption in historical past to utterly break by means of the stratosphere and disrupt the mesosphere.

“That is a unprecedented end result, as we’ve by no means seen a cloud this excessive earlier than.” says atmospheric scientist Simon Proud Oxford College.

Maybe this could come as no shock: there was an eruption one of many largest volcanic eruptions mankind has by no means seen. But it surely took some intelligent detective work to precisely measure the peak of his plume.

The peak of a volcanic plume is normally estimated based mostly on the temperature profile measured by infrared observing satellites. As a result of thermal radiation, or warmth, produces infrared radiation, these satellites can detect volcanic plumes.

As plumes unfold by means of the troposphere (the layer of the ambiance closest to Earth wherein we reside), they lose warmth, so the temperature of the highest of the plume can be utilized to estimate top.

Nevertheless, as soon as the plume reaches the stratosphere, at a median top of ca 12 kilometers, this technique loses accuracy as a result of the temperature profile of the plume adjustments once more, this time changing into hotter. So a bunch of researchers led by Proud took a special strategy.

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The researchers nonetheless relied on information from satellites, however the measurement was based mostly on parallax. Should you’ve ever closed one eye behind the opposite and watched as objects near you appear to shift backward and forward relative to their background, you’ve got seen parallax in motion.

That is the distinction between the obvious place of two objects seen alongside completely different strains of sight, and is the premise of depth notion in binocular imaginative and prescient. Our mind processes data from every eye and calculates the gap to things within the visual field. We are able to use parallax to calculate varied distances.

To acquire parallax measurements of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption, the researchers used information from three geostationary climate satellites that noticed the occasion from completely different positions in low Earth orbit, taking pictures each 10 minutes.

From this, Proud and his staff calculated that the plume reached a top of 57 kilometers. Curiously, that is very near the 58-kilometer top calculated by NASA scientists again in January utilizing information from two geostationary satellites.

Beforehand, the very best recorded volcanic plume was Mount Pinatuba within the Philippines; him The 1991 eruption produced a plume that stretched to 40 kilometers in top.

The a lot greater top of the Hunga Tonga plume, nevertheless, is a bit disconcerting provided that the Mount Pinatuba eruption was of equal energy, with each eruptions registering as 6 on the Volcanic Explosiveness Index (VEI) scale.

Nevertheless, there’s a easy reply to this query. If the Hunga Tonga plume have been measured utilizing Mount Pinatuba strategies, the utmost top can be set at about 39 kilometers.

Even when the Mount Pinatuba plume reached above measurements, we nonetheless do not know what the mechanisms are for reaching that top. So this could possibly be an fascinating subject to discover.

We additionally do not know the way a volcanic plume of this top would have an effect on the mesosphere; since no different volcanic plume reached this top, the consequences have been solely oblique.

Nebular matter was noticed on the prime of the Hunga Tonga plume; what it’s and the way lengthy it is going to final there may be unknown.

Which means that way more work must be accomplished to assist us perceive this fascinating and disruptive occasion.

“We might additionally like to use this method to different eruptions and develop a dataset of plume heights that can be utilized by volcanologists and atmospheric scientists to mannequin the dispersion of volcanic ash within the ambiance,” says atmospheric physicist Andrew Pratt Oxford College.

“Extra scientific questions we want to perceive are: Why did the Tonga plume rise so excessive? What would be the results of this eruption on the local weather? And what precisely was the plume made from?”

The examine was printed in Science.

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