Water vapor from Tonga’s volcanic eruption could warm Earth for years

More than eight months after the underwater volcano near Tonga erupted on Jan. 14, scientists are still analyzing the impacts of the violent blast, and they’re discovering that it could warm the planet.

Recently, researchers calculated that the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apa spewed a staggering 50 million tons (45 million metric tons) of water vapor into Earth’s atmosphere, in addition to enormous quantities of ash and volcanic gases. This massive vapor injection increased the amount of moisture in the global stratosphere by about 5%, and could trigger a cycle of stratospheric cooling and surface heating — and these effects may persist for months to come, according to a new study.

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