Scientists have found that the eruption of the Tonga volcano can damage the ozone layer

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    Scientists have found that the eruption of the Tonga volcano can damage the ozone layer

    According to experts, a large amount of water released into the stratosphere as a result of the Tonga explosion can exacerbate global warming.

    On January 15, 2022, the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Haapai volcano erupted under the Pacific Ocean, the explosion raised a colossal plume of water to a height of 53 km, writes IFLS.

    Using satellite data, researchers calculated that as a result of this event about 146 billion kg of water entered the stratosphere, where it can remain for up to 10 years and contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer.

    As the tsunami spread across the Pacific after the eruption, the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) aboard NASA's Aura satellite immediately went to work, monitoring changes in the levels of sulfur dioxide and water in the Earth's atmosphere.

    After analyzing this data, the authors of the new study concluded that the amount of sulfur dioxide released was roughly comparable to the number of previous eruptions, however, the amount of water released was unprecedented in both magnitude (exceeding any previous values ​​​​in the 17-year MLS record) and height ( penetration into the mesosphere).

    “Actually, this is not so surprising, since the Tonga caldera used to be at a depth of 150 m below sea level. If you also consider that the eruption was the most powerful in the 21st century, you begin to understand how much sea water was thrown into sky,” the scientists added.

    Overall, the researchers estimate that this event increased the total water content of the stratosphere by about 10%. Usually, large volcanic eruptions have a cooling effect on the planet, as the sulfur compounds they release reflect sunlight from the Earth's atmosphere. Water, on the other hand, absorbs energy from the Sun, meaning that such a large increase in water content in the stratosphere could exacerbate global warming.

    Furthermore, the authors of the study explain how water molecules react with oxygen atoms in atmosphere, can lead to an increase in the hydroxide content. This turn of events could contribute to the depletion of the Earth's ozone layer through a process known as the hydroxyl radical cycle.

    Worse yet, the researchers expect the sulfur dioxide released by the eruption to dissipate within 2-3 years, but as noted experts, plume of water can hang in the atmosphere for 5-10 years. In other words, the warming effect of water vapor will last longer than the cooling effect of the eruption.

    As a result, the authors conclude that Tonga may be the first observed volcanic eruption that affects the climate not through surface cooling caused by aerosols of volcanic sulfates, but rather through surface heating caused by excess water in the atmosphere.

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