Though massive volcanoes have the potential to affect global temperatures and weather, the eruption near Tonga on Saturday was likely not large enough to impact global climate, experts have told CNN.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai eruption was enormous; likely the largest in 30 years, according to experts. It injected a huge cloud of ash and sulfur dioxide, or SO2, high into the atmosphere, more than 30 kilometres above sea level, according to data from NASA satellites.
At that height, above the influence of the jet stream in a layer of atmosphere known as the stratosphere, aerosols can remain for years. Importantly, when SO2 reaches the stratosphere, it reacts with water and creates a hazy layer of gas that prevents sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface and can lead to cooler temperatures.
But scientists have also estimated from satellite data the total SO2 mass from the Saturday eruption was 0.4 teragrams – 400 million kilograms – of SO2, which is well below what scientists say could significantly alter global climate.
For instance, the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 released 15 to 20 teragrams of SO2 high into the atmosphere, resulting in a 0.6 degree Celsius drop in global temperature over the next 15 months, according to NASA.