Editor’s note: last week, Climate Realism also covered this event in a guest post from Ryan Maue, Ph.D., who also wrote about the effect of the eruption on Earth’s atmosphere. This essay and the scientific study cited by it, further reinforce the likelihood that this event has contributed to recent, sustained, above average temperatures.
The current heat wave is being relentlessly blamed on increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but there is a much more plausible explanation, one that is virtually endorsed by two of the world’s leading scientific organizations. It turns out that levels of water vapor in the atmosphere have dramatically increased over the last year-and-a-half, and water vapor is well recognized as a greenhouse gas, whose heightened presence leads to higher temperatures, a mechanism that dwarfs any effect CO2 may have.
So, why has atmospheric water vapor increased so dramatically? Because of a historic, gigantic volcanic eruption last year that I – probably along with you — had never heard of. The mass media ignored it because it took place 490 feet underwater in the South Pacific. Don’t take it from me, take it from NASA (and please do follow the link to see time lapse satellite imagery of the underwater eruption and subsequent plume of gasses and water injected into the atmosphere):
When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on Jan. 15, it sent a tsunami racing around the world and set off a sonic boom that circled the globe twice. The underwater eruption in the South Pacific Ocean also blasted an enormous plume of water vapor into Earth’s stratosphere – enough to fill more than 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. The sheer amount of water vapor could be enough to temporarily affect Earth’s global average temperature.
“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said Luis Millán, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. He led a new study examining the amount of water vapor that the Tonga volcano injected into the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere between about 8 and 33 miles (12 and 53 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.
In the study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, Millán and his colleagues estimate that the Tonga eruption sent around 146 teragrams (1 teragram equals a trillion grams) of water vapor into Earth’s stratosphere – equal to 10% of the water already present in that atmospheric layer. That’s nearly four times the amount of water vapor that scientists estimate the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines lofted into the stratosphere. [emphases added]
NASA published the above in August 2022. Half a year later, a newer study increased the estimate of the water vapor addition to the atmosphere by 30%. From the European Space Agency:
In a recent paper published in Nature, a team of scientists showed the unprecedented increase in the global stratospheric water mass by 13% (relative to climatological levels) and a five-fold increase of stratospheric aerosol load – the highest in the last three decades.
Using a combination of satellite data, including data from ESA’s Aeolus satellite, and ground-based observations, the team found that due to the extreme altitude, the volcanic plume circumnavigated the Earth in just one week and dispersed nearly pole-to-pole in three months. [emphasis added]
Volcanic eruptions rarely inject much water into the stratosphere. In the 18 years that NASA has been taking measurements, only two other eruptions – the 2008 Kasatochi event in Alaska and the 2015 Calbuco eruption in Chile – sent appreciable amounts of water vapor to such high altitudes. But those were mere blips compared to the Tonga event, and the water vapor from both previous eruptions dissipated quickly. The excess water vapor injected by the Tonga volcano, on the other hand, could remain in the stratosphere for several years.
This extra water vapor could influence atmospheric chemistry, boosting certain chemical reactions that could temporarily worsen depletion of the ozone layer. It could also influence surface temperatures. Massive volcanic eruptions like Krakatoa and Mount Pinatubo typically cool Earth’s surface by ejecting gases, dust, and ash that reflect sunlight back into space. In contrast, the Tonga volcano didn’t inject large amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere, and the huge amounts of water vapor from the eruption may have a small, temporary warming effect, since water vapor traps heat. The effect would dissipate when the extra water vapor cycles out of the stratosphere [Emphases added]
So there you have it: we are in for extra atmospheric heat “for several years” until the extra water vapor injected by this largest-ever-recorded underwater volcano eruption dissipates.
Jeff Childers, who brought this scientific data to my notice, writes:
Here’s why corporate media is ignoring the most dramatic climate even[t] in modern history: because you can’t legislate underwater volcanoes. You can try, but they won’t listen. So what’s the fun in that? Corporate media only exists to further political ends. Since volcanoes aren’t subject to politics, why bother?
He brings up the work of Ethical Skeptic:
Ethical is suggesting that the water is heating the air — instead of the other way around. And the Earth’s core is heating the water. It’s a theory that explains everything.
Meanwhile, “science” is baffled. From just a month ago, in mid-June:
See? But though scientists are baffled, corporate media and its repulsive allies are busily blaming ocean warming on carbon dioxide — a ludicrous notion.
I am the first to admit that none of this – not the atmospheric CO2 theory of global warming, nor the effect of the largest ever known undersea volcanic eruption – is scientifically proven. But before we impoverish ourselves trying to reduce CO2 emissions (while watching China dramatically increase them), let’s practice real science and not jump to conclusions based on an imaginary “consensus.”