HFIPS’s Observational Instrument Captures Produced Gas of Tonga Eruption

Jan 25, 2022 | By ZHOU Shu

A huge plume of ash, steam and gas rising up high from the underwater near Tonga has captured attention around the world on January 14, just two weeks after the beginning of 2022.

The communication to the outer world has been cut off immediately after the volcano eruption, the devastating explosion was still captured by the satellite orbiting the earth. The explosion may not be the one impacting the planet the most, "but to witness it with the modern array of instruments we have is truly unprecedented", just as Lori Dengler said, an emeritus professor of geophysics at Humboldt State University in California.

The Environment Monitoring Instrument (EMI) developed by the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science and aboard the Hyperspectral Observation Satellite was one of the modern array of observational instruments. The very wide view filed to cover whole planet within just one day enabled the instrument to send its observation data of SO2 distribution in a really short time after the eruption.

The data showed a high concentration of SO2 above the eruption vent after the first explosion. Just one day later, the west-toward movement of SO2 alongside the upper airflow was capture by Hefei Institutes of Physical Science (HFIPS)’s EMI and the gas arrived at the sky above Australia on January 17. Then SO2 produced by the eruption did not stop its movement and its arrival at the sky of Northwest Australia was observed on January 19.

SO2 is one kind of the gas produced alongside volcano eruption. It is a big factor to evaluate the impact of eruption on global climate. And EMI is the only one orbiting Chinese observational instrument aboard the hyperspectral observation satellite. Now, weeks have passed. Scientists from across the world are still trying to better understand the massive explosion. And HFIPS’s EMI remains orbiting and its observation of the produced gas goes on.

The data captured by EMI showed a high concentration of SO2 above the eruption vent after the first explosion  (Image by HFIPS)

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