Science

Highest volcano plume ever recorded penetrates the mesosphere

New evaluation of a volcanic eruption off the coast of Tonga earlier this year has revealed the true extent of the large explosion, and established its plume as the highest on report. It can be the first one to be seen stretching by way of decrease layers of the environment to enter the mesosphere, which begins at an altitude of some 50 km (31 miles).

The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai to the north of Tonga on January 14 is considered considered one of the strongest ever noticed, with the occasion inflicting devastating tsunamis all through the Pacific and shockwaves felt throughout the world.

Scientists at the University of Oxford have tapped into imagery from geostationary climate satellites to achieve a brand new perspective on the occasion. These satellites noticed the volcano from three angles and captured a sequence of pictures that documented the erupting plume at 10-minute intervals.

The group then used a novel measurement method based mostly on what’s referred to as the parallax impact, the place a topic’s position seems to differ when seen from completely different angles, (maintain your thumb out in entrance of you and shut both eye alternatively to get the concept). Measuring these obvious shifts in the topic’s position, based mostly on the identified distance between the satellites, enabled the group to calculate the distance to the plume.

Satellite picture of the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai volcano round 50 minutes after its eruption

Simon Proud/Uni Oxford, RALSpace NCEO/Japan Meteorological Agency

The evaluation confirmed that it reached an altitude of 57 km (35 miles) at its highest level, an incredible deal taller than the 40-km-high (25-mile) plume ejected from Mount Pinatubo in 1991. This additionally makes it the first volcanic eruption to hold materials by way of the troposphere and stratosphere, to inject it straight into the mesosphere.

“It’s an extraordinary result as we have never seen a cloud of any type this tall before,” stated lead writer Dr Simon Proud. “Furthermore, the ability to estimate the height in the way we did (using the parallax method) is only possible now that we have good satellite coverage. It wouldn’t have been possible a decade or so ago.”

Based on these outcomes, the scientists now plan to develop an automatic software for calculating the heights of volcanic plumes by way of the parallax technique.

“We’d also like to apply this technique to other eruptions and develop a dataset of plume heights that can be used by volcanologists and atmospheric scientists to model the dispersion of volcanic ash in the atmosphere,” stated co-author Dr Andrew Prata. “Further science questions that we would like to understand are: Why did the Tonga plume go so high? What will be the climate impacts of this eruption? And what exactly was the plume composed of?”

The analysis was printed in the journal Science.

Source: University of Oxford by way of EurekAlert

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