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Tonga volcano could cause unusual weather for rest of decade: study

Why is it in the news?

  • A recent study published in the Journal of Climate revealed that the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in January 2022 has had significant implications for global weather patterns.

Key discoveries of the research include:

  • Unusual Climate Effects:
  • The eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano led to unexpected weather patterns, including an exceptionally large ozone hole last year and a much wetter-than-anticipated summer in 2024.
  • These effects were attributed to the massive release of water vapor into the stratosphere, diverging from the typical smoke and sulfur dioxide emissions of volcanic eruptions.
  • Impact on Ozone Hole:
  • The study indicates that the eruption of Hunga Tonga influenced the significant ozone hole observed from August to December 2023.
  • The released water vapor contributed to chemical reactions, depleting the ozone layer over Antarctica.
  • Interestingly, this effect was foreseen by climate simulations conducted two years earlier.
  • Impact on Southern Annular Mode:
  • The ozone hole’s presence triggered a positive phase of the Southern Annular Mode in the summer of 2024.
  • This led to increased chances of a wetter summer in Australia, diverging from El Niño-based expectations. Notably, climate models accurately predicted this phenomenon in advance.
  • Atmospheric Wave Alteration:
  • The eruption seems to have changed the paths of atmospheric waves, impacting high and low-pressure systems that shape weather patterns.
  • This indicates that the eruption’s effects might endure for years, influencing weather variability globally.

Overview of Tonga:

  • Tonga, located in Polynesia, comprises 171 islands, 45 of which are inhabited, spanning 800 km north-south.
  • Surrounded by neighboring countries, it boasts a tropical rainforest climate.
  • The economy relies significantly on remittances from Tongans abroad, with emphasis on small-scale industries like handicrafts and agriculture.
  • Efforts to bolster tourism and communications sectors are underway.
  • The population primarily consists of Tongans, alongside diverse ethnic groups by a mix of Tongans, Chinese, Fijians, Europeans, and other Pacific Islanders.

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