Tonga Eruption Doubles the Concentration of Carbon Dioxide in Air, Monitoring Instrument from Space Discovered

Feb 17, 2022 | By ZHAO Weiwei; YE Hanhan

The massive underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga on Saturday has brought heated discussions concerning how it may affect the global climate.

A research team led by Prof. XIONG Wei from Hefei Institutes of Physical Science (HFIPS), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), monitored and analyzed the greenhouse gas concentrations before and after the volcanic eruption in Tonga with the Greenhouse Gases Monitoring Instrument (GMI).

They inverted the greenhouse gas monitoring data over Australia and New Zealand near the volcano in January 2019, January 2020 and January 2022.

According to the result, the inter-annual fluctuation of atmospheric Carbon Dioxide concentration over land in the southern hemisphere has been increasing with a relatively stable speed before the eruption. The inter-annual fluctuation of Carbon Dioxide was about 2ppm each year.

But after the Tonga eruption in Jan. 2022, the Carbon Dioxide concentration near Tonga volcano surged to around 414ppm. Compared with estimated 412ppm had the volcano not erupted, the increased 2ppm equaled a whole year's carbon dioxide emission on earth. "Tons of Carbon Dioxide was let off into the air during the eruption," said YE Hanhan who joined the research, "the accumulation was caused just by the gas overflow and eruption."

GMI was equipped on hyperspectral observation satellite (GF-5B) and the Gaofen-5 satellite (GF-5). They were designed to monitor the global distributions of greenhouse gases (namely, CO2 and CH4) from space.

In the future, GMI will strengthen the monitoring of atmospheric CO2 generated by volcanic activity and assess the impact on the global ecological environment and climate change further.

Greenhouse Gases Monitoring Instrument (GMI)in Space helps to evaluate greenhouse gas around Tonga before and after the Eruption (Image by YE Hanhan)

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