The eruption of the Tonga volcano was unusual, it could even warm the earth

NEW YORK (Associated Press) — When an undersea volcano in Tonga erupted in January, its watery eruption was massive and unusual — and scientists are still trying to understand its effects.

A study published Thursday in the journal Science reports that the volcano, known as Henga Tonga Hong Hapai, released millions of tons of water vapor high into the atmosphere.

The researchers estimate that the eruption increased the amount of water in the stratosphere — the second layer of the atmosphere, above the range where humans live and breathe — by about 5%.

Now, scientists are trying to figure out how all this water might affect the atmosphere, and whether it will warm the Earth’s surface over the next few years.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said lead author Holger Voemel, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

Big eruptions usually cool the planet. Most volcanoes send out large amounts of sulfur, which blocks the sun’s rays, explained Matthew Toohy, a climate researcher at the University of Saskatchewan who was not involved in the study.