Volcano eruption-Tonga: Unprecedented “ripples” in the Earth’s atmosphere – Scientists are surprised (vid)


The massive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in the Pacific island nation of Tonga has created unprecedented strong “ripples” in the planet’s atmosphere, a phenomenon that scientists have never observed before after a volcanic eruption. It is no coincidence that, according to the meteo of the National Observatory, the shock wave of the explosion, circling the Earth, passed at least twice over the atmosphere of Greece, causing a sharp temporary drop in atmospheric pressure.

Scientists around the world are trying to understand the big waves that swept through the Earth’s atmosphere after the explosion in Tonga. Satellite data show that the incident triggered an unusual pattern of atmospheric gravitational waves, according to Nature. Previous volcanic eruptions had not produced such a signal, much to the surprise of many scientists.

The initial discovery of the atmospheric ripples was made through images taken by the AIRS (Atmospheric Infrared Sounder) instrument of the Aqua satellite of the American Space Agency (NASA) a few hours after the explosion on January 14. They show dozens of concentric circles, each representing a rapidly moving wave in the gases of the atmosphere, extending over a distance of more than 16,000 kilometers. These waves reached from the ocean to the ionosphere and seem to have passed several times around the Earth.

“It’s something really unique. We have never seen anything like this in the data. “The AIRS instrument has been in operation for about 20 years and we have never seen such beautiful patterns of concentric ripples,” said Lars Hoffmann, an atmospheric scientist at the German Julich Center for Supercomputers.

Such waves in the atmosphere occur when air molecules are disturbed vertically, not horizontally, something that can happen e.g. when the wind grows stronger, as it rises and passes over a mountain. These ripples carry energy through the atmosphere and often create high clouds in the form of ripples.

Theoretically, the rapid rise in the atmosphere of hot air and ash from a volcanic eruption could trigger similar waves on a much larger scale, but nothing like this has ever been observed before. “This is something that really makes us wonder, as it has to do with the physics of the whole event, but we still do not know what it is,” said Atmospheric physicist Corwin Wright of the University of Bath in the UK. observed the fluctuations in the data collected by Hoffman.

Climate expert Scott Osprey of the University of Oxford attributes the ripples to the fact that the Tonga eruption was unique because it occurred very quickly relative to other volcanic eruptions. “The incident seems to have ended in just a few minutes, but it was so explosive that it probably triggered some strong gravitational waves,” he said.

Scientists do not rule out that the effects of the explosion will last long enough, affecting the weather over long distances, even in Europe. “We will be watching very closely to see how it goes,” Osprey said.

It is questionable for geoscientists whether this particular volcano can “give” other large eruptions. New Zealand University of Auckland volcanologist Shane Cronin, who is closely monitoring the Tonga volcano for future eruptions, said the volcano could potentially supply new large amounts of magma from deep underground and produce more eruptions. But it is also possible that it has depleted most of its magmatic “reservoir”, so in the future it will be able to produce only smaller explosions, which will remain hidden under the surface of the ocean. At present, scientists do not have a clear picture of the state of the volcano.

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