Tongan volcano eruption sent record-breaking cloud of ash more than 57 kilometers into the air, experts say ~ Nov. 7, 2022


The plume from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption is the largest in recorded history.(Reuters: RAL Space, NCEO/Japan Meteorological Agency/University of Oxford/Simon Proud)

The powerful underwater eruption of Tonga’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano earlier this year produced a plume that soared higher into Earth’s atmosphere than any other on record, according to experts.

Key points:

  • Tonga’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano erupted in January of this year
  • The eruption sent a plume of water, ash and sulphur 57 kilometres into the air
  • Researchers studying the eruption say it’s the highest a plume has reached following a volcanic eruption

Researchers say the plume reached about 57 kilometres into the sky, extending more than halfway to space. 

The white-grayish plume unleashed by the eruption became the first one documented to have penetrated a frigid layer of the atmosphere called the mesosphere, according to scientists who used multiple satellite images to measure its height.

Its plume was composed primarily of water, with some ash and sulphur dioxide mixed in, said atmospheric scientist Simon Proud, lead author of the research published in the journal Science.

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