Monthly Archives: January 2022

Hunga-Tonga Eruption 2022

Preliminary estimates indicate that the massive Hunga-Tonga explosive eruption 2022 January 15 was the most intense since the Pinatubo explosive eruption in 1991. The eruption sent ash and sulfur dioxide well into the stratosphere, but preliminary estimates of the amount appears to be at least a factor of 4 to 5 lower than from Pinatubo. Consequently, the effect on global weather may not be very significant. However, the eruption was quite impressive nonetheless. Below is an animation of daily Suomi NPP satellite images with the stratospheric sulfur dioxide analysis superimposed in blue.

Figure 1. NASA Worldview depiction of Suomi NPP daily satellite composite images with superimposed stratospheric sulfur dioxide in blue for 2022 January 13 through 21 (click on image to enlarge).

A wide view of the first several hours of the eruption as seen in GeoColor images from NOAA GOES-17 from 0100 to 1250 UTC on 2022 January 15 is included in the animation below.

Figure 2. NOAA GOES-17 GeoColor animation for the Southwest Pacific on 2022 January 15 (click on image to enlarge).

A cropped closer view of the 0400 to 0600 UTC portion of the eruption is provided below at 10-minute intervals.

Figure 3. NOAA GOES-17 GeoColor animation at 10-minute intervals from 0400 through 0600 UTC on 2022 January 15 (click on image to enlarge).

From Wikipedia: “The eruption column rose 55 kilometres (34 mi) into the mesosphere and contained approximately 2–2.6 km3 (0.48–0.62 cu mi) of material, roughly twice that of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.” And quite a bit less than the estimated 10 km3 (2.4 cu mi) of material from Pinatubo in 1991, but the most since that time.

A potentially big difference between the Hunga-Tonga and Pinatubo eruptions is that the Hunga-Tonga eruption probably blasted huge amounts of ocean water into the statosphere and possibly all the way into the mesosphere. That could include salt particles as well as ice crystals, in addition to the sulfates forming from sulfur dioxide emitted.