At the end of December, a volcano with the exotic name Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Haapai became more active in the Pacific Ocean. After a short lull, the eruption resumed on January 14, reaching its highest intensity the following day. Ash clouds rose to a height of 20 kilometers, covering the sun and turning day into night for the inhabitants of the island kingdom of Tonga, in whose territory the volcano is located. And since it is mostly located under water, the eruption generated a tsunami, the waves of which reached the shores of Japan, America, the Kuril Islands and Hawaiian Islands.
Moreover, there are forecasts that due to the release of a huge amount of ashes, the planet is threatened by global cooling.
56 lightning discharges per second
Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Haapai Volcano rises 2 kilometers above the seabed, and its caldera lies 150 meters below sea level. Previous eruptions formed two small islands on the surface of the Pacific Ocean (Hunga Tonga and Hunga Haapai), which later merged into one.
The volcano awakened in 1912, 1937, 1988, 2009, 2014 and 2015. But the current eruption for him, perhaps the most powerful in the last thousand years. thinks soprofessor at the University of Auckland, volcanologist Shane Cronin. “The most remarkable — how quickly and violently it spread. The current eruption turned out to be much larger, rapidly developing, with much more ash thrown out. We can expect several weeks or even years of major volcanic events on Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Haapai. Perhaps a layer of ash several centimeters thick will settle on the lands of the kingdom of Tonga, — said the professor in an interview with the BBC. As he notes, the last such eruption in this place occurred in 1100.
The Hunga Tonga volcano is located on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where some lithospheric plates are submerged under others. The explosive nature of the eruption is due to the interaction of magma and sea water, which penetrates through cracks into the deep chamber. When the events of January 14-15 began, small stones and ash fell from the sky on the heads of the inhabitants of the capital of Tonga, Nukualofa, explosions were heard in Samoa, New Zealand and even in northwestern Canada. According to satellite observations, 200 thousand lightning discharges per hour occurred in the volcanic cloud above the eruption site, that is, 56 discharges per second! The tremors of the earth's crust were felt thousands of kilometers away, and the jumps in atmospheric pressure caused by explosions were recorded even on the opposite side of the Earth.
So far, the natural disaster has been without significant casualties and destruction (three deaths reported), but it remains unclear whether the events of January 15 are the culmination of the eruption. The same professor Shane Cronin notes that the previous large eruptions of Hunga Tong consisted of many separate explosions. This is indicated by the analysis of geological deposits in the area of the volcano.
Will the volcanic winter come?
Volcanic eruptions emit tens and even hundreds of cubic kilometers of ash into the atmosphere — suspension of solid particles with a size of about one micron or less. They can rise to a height of up to 50 kilometers and stretch over a vast territory, covering a significant part of the planet. Because of this, there is an anti-greenhouse effect: less solar radiation reaches the Earth's surface. Global cooling is coming — volcanic winter.
This has happened many times in the history of mankind. For example, the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora in 1815 threw out a cloud of ash that remained in the atmosphere for two years. In some regions of the Earth, it got colder by 5 ° C, and 1816 in Europe was called the “year without summer”: frosts occurred in June and July, snow fell, which led to a catastrophic crop failure, rising grain prices and massive famine.
According to volcanologists, now Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Haapai has already thrown out several cubic kilometers of ash and crushed rock. Professor of meteorology and climatology Kim Holmen from Norway believes that a natural disaster could result in global cooling.
“Each volcano — this is a unique mechanism, there are no identical volcanoes, — the scientist says. — It is not yet known what chemical elements were released due to this eruption. It is very likely that it will lead to climate change. Recently, there have been no such powerful eruptions. Ashes rose to a height of 20 kilometers, and this is the level of the stratosphere. The last eruption of this magnitude was in the Philippines in 1991, when Mount Pinatubo erupted, after which the temperature at the poles dropped by several degrees, and the cold continued for three years.
Now everyone is talking about global warming. Perhaps because of this eruption, the trend will slow down for several years, and we will see lower temperatures around the globe. This will affect the animal world, the glaciers, the level of the ocean. Long-term effect — cold snap around the world. We have already seen something similar after other major eruptions in the past.
Russian scientists are more reserved in their forecasts. According to Professor of the Faculty of Geology of Moscow State University, Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences Pavel Plechov, the ash from the Hunga-Tong eruption has risen to an insufficient height to be carried over long distances, and global cooling is unlikely to threaten the earth's climate.
Director of the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology of the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences Alexei Ozerov also considers catastrophic consequences unlikely, but draws attention to the fact that the ash plume — the phenomenon is very insidious. “We remember how a much weaker eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 covered all of Europe with ash up to the Crimea, — he says. — So in any case, you need to control the situation. Risks should not be underestimated.