October 6, 2022

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Tonga volcano’s massive plume has reached the average ocean – 38 miles into the atmosphere

The plume coming from Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai acted like a massive thunderstorm that soared 58 kilometers (38 miles) into the atmosphere.

When an underwater volcano erupts near a small uninhabited island Honga Tonga – Hong Happi In January 2022, two weather satellites were placed in a unique location to monitor the height and width of the shaft. Together, they captured what is likely the highest column in the satellite record.

Scientists in[{” attribute=””>NASA’s Langley Research Center analyzed data from NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 17 (GOES-17) and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Himawari-8, which both operate in geostationary orbit and carry very similar imaging instruments. The team calculated that the plume from the January 15 volcanic eruption rose to 58 kilometers (36 miles) at its highest point. Gas, steam, and ash from the volcano reached the mesosphere, the third layer of the atmosphere.

Prior to the Tonga eruption, the largest known volcanic plume in the satellite era came from Mount Pinatubo, which spewed ash and aerosols up to 35 kilometers (22 miles) into the air above the Philippines in 1991. The Tonga plume was 1.5 times the height of the Pinatubo plume.

“The intensity of this event far exceeds that of any storm cloud I have ever studied,” said Kristopher Bedka, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Langley who specializes in studying extreme storms. “We are fortunate that it was viewed so well by our latest generation of geostationary satellites and we can use this data in innovative ways to document its evolution.”

The animation above shows a stereoscopic view of the plume of the Tonga eruption as it ascended, evolved, and dispersed over a 13-hour period on January 15, 2022. The animation was generated from infrared observations obtained every 10 minutes by GOES-17 and Himawari-8. According to these observations. , the initial explosion quickly rose from the ocean surface to 58 kilometers in about 30 minutes. Shortly thereafter, a secondary pulse rose above 50 kilometers (31 miles), and then separated into three pieces.

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Atmospheric scientists typically calculate cloud height using infrared instruments to measure cloud temperature and then compare it to a model simulation of temperature and altitude. However, this method is based on the assumption that temperatures decrease at higher altitudes – this is true in the troposphere, but not necessarily in middle and upper layers of the atmosphere. Scientists needed a different way to calculate height: geometry.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is located in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Himawari-8, which is in geostationary orbit at 140.7°E longitude, and GOES-17, in geostationary orbit at 137.2°W. “From two satellite angles, we were able to recreate a three-dimensional image of the clouds,” explained Konstantin Khlobinkov, a scientist on the NASA Langley team.

Stereoscopic Notes Tonga Plum Volcano

January 15 2022

This sequence of still images from GOES-17 shows the column in various stages on January 15. Notice how the longer parts of the plume in the stratosphere and mesosphere cast a shadow over the lower parts.

Khlopenkov and Bedka used a technique originally designed to study intense thunderstorms that penetrate the stratosphere. Their algorithm matches simultaneous observations of the same cloud landscape from two satellites, and then uses stereoscopy to create a 3D profile of the rising clouds. (This is similar to the way the human brain perceives things in three dimensions using images from two of our eyes.) Khlobenkov then verified the stereoscopic measurements using length shadows cast by tall plumes on the broad ash clouds below. They also compared their measurements with NASA’s GEOS-5 model analysis to determine the local height of the stratosphere and troposphere on that day.

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the top of the column elevator Almost immediately due to the extremely dry conditions in the atmosphere. However, a canopy of ash and gas scattered in stratosphere At an elevation of about 30 kilometers (20 miles), it eventually covers an area of ​​157,000 square kilometers (60,000 square miles), larger than the state of Georgia.

“When volcanic material rises to this height in the stratosphere, where the winds are not strong, volcanic ash, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and water vapor can be transported all over the Earth,” Khlobinkov said. Within two weeks, the main plume of volcanic material floated around the globe, as observed by the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO), as well as the ozone and profile mapping array on the Suomi-NPP satellite.

Atmospheric scientist Ghassan Taha of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said aerosols from the plume persisted in the stratosphere for about a month after the eruption and could persist for a year or more. Volcanic emissions can affect Local weather and global climate. However, Taha noted, it is currently unlikely that the Tonga plume would have significant climatic impacts because it was low in sulfur dioxide – the volcanic emission that causes cooling – but high in water vapor, which is an impressive rise.

“The combination of volcanic heat and the intense amount of moisture from the ocean made this eruption unprecedented. It was like excessive fuel for a massive thunderstorm,” Bidka said. “The volcano’s plume rose 2.5 times higher than any thunderstorm we’ve ever seen, and the eruption resulted in Incredible amount of lightning. This is what makes this important from a meteorological perspective.”

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NASA Earth Observatory images and video by Joshua Stevens, using data provided by Christopher Bedka and Konstantin Khlobinkov/NASA Langley Research Center, and GOES-17 images provided by NOAA and the National Environmental Satellite and Data and Information Service (NESDIS). Story by Sophie Bates, NASA Earth Science News Team, with Mike Carlwich.