Sep 15, 2023 at 3:38 p.m
The eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano in the Pacific Ocean has had an unexpected effect on the climate. While an eruption normally cools the earth, the one in January 2022 actually led to warming, according to the KNMI.
A volcanic eruption usually leads to (a little) cooling on earth. The eruption releases sulfur, among other things. Some of it ends up in the stratosphere at an altitude of 20 kilometers.
Ultra-fine sulfuric acid droplets form there, which reflect part of the sunlight. This means that the Earth can be slightly cooler for a longer period of time after a volcanic eruption.
The difference with the Hunga Tonga is that this is an undersea volcanic eruption. That undersea eruption blew the equivalent of 60,000 filled Olympic swimming pools into the stratosphere.
This did not lead to global cooling, but rather to warming. Initial calculations show that the Hunga Tonga eruption may have warmed the Earth by 0.1 degrees in 2023.
This is because water vapor, a greenhouse gas, was blown into the stratosphere. “That water vapor ensures that you get a downward and upward heat flow. This downward heat flow warmed the atmosphere in the lower regions,” explains meteorologist Raymond Klaassen of Weerplaza.
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