Nuage de cendres créé par un volcan en éruption

The eruption of this volcano was felt even in space

Volcanic eruptions are usually colorful phenomena capable of producing the most devastating effects. The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption last January is no exception. Unexpectedly, scientists have just indicated that its effects have been felt even in space.

In an article recently published on the NASA blog, the experts thus speak of ” one of the biggest disturbances which we have witnessed throughout the modern era. Indeed, in addition to significant releases of gas, water vapor and dust, the explosion generated violent winds which affected the highest layers of the atmosphere up to the edge of space.

Ash cloud created by an erupting volcano
©Yosh Ginsu/

Extreme winds reaching 450 km/h which even disturbed the electric currents of the ionosphere.

Read also: A dormant volcano wakes up and causes a swarm of earthquakes

The electric current of the ionosphere has completely changed direction

According to the explanations, the extreme winds generated by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai explosion disrupted the electrical current of the ionosphere (the upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere ionized by solar UV rays). This electric current, called the equatorial electrojet, usually flows eastward, powered by winds from the lower atmosphere.

But following the eruption of the volcano in question, the extreme winds produced managed to deviate the direction of the equatorial electrojet, causing it to flow west for a while. This electric current also reached five times its normal power after the eruption, according to NASA specialists.

READ ALSO: According to NASA, the eruption of Tonga is equivalent to “hundreds of Hiroshima bombs”

According to Joanne Wu, co-author of this study, “ it is very surprising to see the electrojet being strongly reversed by something that happened on the surface of the Earth. This is something we’ve only seen before with strong geomagnetic storms, which are a form of space weather caused by particles and radiation from the Sun. “.

For researchers, this is a phenomenon that deserves close attention. Indeed, disturbances of this kind can affect the proper functioning of various systems. like GPS in the regions where they occur. In addition, studying them will allow us to better understand how events occurring in the lower atmosphere can affect weather phenomena in the upper atmosphere and near space.

Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


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