Title: Underwater Volcanic Eruption’s Water Vapor Release Linked to Global Warming Spike
Date: January 30, 2023 | Source: Press Stories
On January 14, 2022, the world witnessed an unprecedented event as the Hung Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Volcano, located underwater, erupted and released an immense amount of water vapor into the atmosphere. This astounding eruption ejected approximately 146 tera-grams of water vapor into the stratosphere, a quantity equivalent to around 10% of the water vapor present in that specific layer of the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases are vital in maintaining the Earth’s temperature and suitability for life. These gases comprise water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, and methane, with water vapor being the most abundant and potent greenhouse gas due to its capability to absorb a wide range of infrared wavelengths. However, it is essential to note that volcanic eruptions traditionally release volcanic plume and ash, resulting in a cooling effect. The unique aspect of the Tonga eruption was its release of water vapor, which potentially changed the game.
Recent studies conducted by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) indicate that the release of water vapor by the Tonga eruption could have contributed to the unparalleled global warming observed throughout 2023. In fact, the BAMS report suggests that the eruption increased the probability of surpassing an annual mean global surface temperature anomaly of 1.5°C by 7% during the immediate five years following the event.
While stratospheric water vapor concentrations have the potential to affect surface climate and tropospheric temperatures inversely, they are predominantly expected to influence the environment in a different way than their stratospheric counterparts. Thus, the elevated stratospheric water vapor concentrations arising from the Tonga eruption could have played a role in the recent warming observed in the Northern Hemisphere, although it is important to acknowledge that it is not the sole cause.
Further investigations are currently underway to comprehend the full extent and duration of the eruption’s impact, which could potentially linger for several years. Scientists are diligently working to determine how the release of water vapor from the underwater volcanic eruption will influence the Earth’s climate, ecosystems, and overall well-being.
The Tonga eruption serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness between natural phenomena and the delicate balance of the planet’s climate systems. As scientists delve deeper into understanding the impacts of this unique event, it is crucial that we collectively strive towards sustainable practices and proactive measures to mitigate and adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.