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Did volcanic dust from Hunga Tonga cause flooding in Australia?

Hunga-Tonga Hunga Ha’apai

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai

Unusual rain in Australia started within days of the Hunga Tonga dust cloud travelling across the continent

On January 15th, Hunga Tonga launched a magma-powered thunderstorm that sent atmospheric shockwaves around the world.  Ash, salt and particulates were carried through rising columns, right through the stratosphere, into the mesosphere and all the way up to 58 kilometers above Earth. For hours 400,000-odd lighting bolts zapped the airborne chemical soup.

The dust from Hunga-Tonga travelled West and reached Australia on Jan 18 – 20th. On Jan 21-22 flooding rain washed out the main railway line and roads in central Australia. Over the next few weeks, rains soaked the ground across parts of Queensland and New South Wales. By February 15th, the remnant volcanic dust that had circled the Earth and was back again creating rich red sunsets over Australia. A week or so after that, the rain bombs fell on South East Queensland, and travelled south through New South Wales to Sydney.

The big unknown is that the Hunga-Tonga volcano launched water vapor, salt and dust incredibly high — almost too high. The aerosols are far above the troposphere where rainfall originates and some of that floating ash was still too high even as it returned on the second lap of the Earth at 25km above sea level.  On the other hand, some particles will fall out faster than others, others will be highly charged and possibly novel entities created in the monster lightning storm above the volcano, and some ash and particles will have been released at lower heights.

This post was inspired by Jennifer Marohasy who pointed out the weak La Nina conditions don’t really explain the floods in Australia this year. She wondered if the recent Australian rain was fueled by aerosols from Hunga Tonga and describes how rainfall has been linked to past eruptions in scientific papers:  after “El Chichon spewed 20 million tonnes of aerosols into the stratosphere in 1982, Hong Kong recorded very high rainfalls as the dust arrived across the Pacific”.

The volcanic dust passes over Australia on Jan 18 -20

Hunga Tonga lies 20 degrees south of the equator at roughly the same latitude as Townsville in Queensland. So the densest band of aerosols circling the Earth westwards from the eruption would track right over Queensland.

Updating SO2 emissions of #HungaTongaHungaHaapai. The huge plume of sulphur dioxide was detected today, Jan. 18 by the #Copernicus #Sentinel5p #Tropomi sensor over Northern #Australia, keeping moving westward. #Tonga #TongaVolcanoEruption #AirQuality @WMO @BOM_WA @smitchell_sci

SO2 emissions of #HungaTongaHungaHaapai. The huge plume of sulphur dioxide was detected today, Jan. 18 by the #Copernicus #Sentinel5p #Tropomi sensor over Northern #Australia.

The volcanic dust cloud travelled west, arriving over Australia on January 18th and reaching the Indian Ocean on the far side by January 20th. It was dissipating as it moved, but could have left a trail of cloud seeding particles in the stratosphere over Australia. These in turn will be falling and blowing with the wind, spreading out through the Southern Hemisphere.

Strange rainfall patterns Across Australia in the week after the dust went through.

On Jan 21 and 22, flooding in the arid zones of South Australia was so severe, it washed out the one trans Australian railway line and the Stuart Highway as well. And this was in midsummer in an area that rarely gets any rain. Rainfalls in some areas of South Australia were 400% higher than normal.

Perhaps some parts of these falls were too far south, and perhaps the dust just wasn’t low enough in the atmosphere at this point.  But on the 16th of January there were slow surface and lower tropospheric winds blowing past parts of the Tonga cloud to the west.

Rainfall Australia 2022 January. Bureau of Meteorology

The downpour in central South Australia was so unusual it washed out the sole Trans-Australia “Indian Pacific” railway line running across the nation from East to West.

The line normally delivers 80% of Western Australia’s retail supplies on freight trains that are nearly 2km long.  The line took weeks to be restored and the shelves here in Perth are still running empty in somewhat random patterns.

Railway line Trans Australia flooding in January 2022.

Flooding has damaged parts of the freight line across the Nullabor.

 

Across Australia the rain for the whole month of January was generally heavier than usual

There is usually very little rain in central Australia in the hottest month of the year. When there are big falls in the deserts it is usually due to the remnants of a cyclone. That doesn’t seem to be the case this time.

And most of the rain recorded on this map occurred after the dust passed over.  The first two weeks of January were much drier.

Hunga Tonga was the tallest, wettest, most violent storm in our lifetime

The eruption that reached an astonishing 58 kilometers into the sky.

Height of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption reached 30 km (98 500 feet) a.s.l., Tonga

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption as it passed the 30 km mark (98 500 feet) a.s.l., Tonga |

 

The underwater explosion made Hungo Tonga very different. Unlike Pinatubo or El Chichon, it didn’t carry a large weight of sulphur dioxide, but did carry a lot of water. The blast punched so far up into the atmosphere, because it was powered by a massive expansion of water vapor as the 20 degree water hit 1000 degree magma. The steam powered column drove a mix of salt, ash and particulates right through the stratosphere and into the mesosphere. It was possibly the biggest thunderstorm on Earth. The rising column generated a phenomenal 400,000 lighting strikes over a seven hour period. That towering electrical morass must have generated a wild-card mix of aggressively charged particles, and at altitudes we never normally see them. Who knows how long those zapped chemicals would take to drift back down to Earth and what mischief they might do on the way?

Lightning in Tonga

Lightning over Tonga |  Environment News Service

 

 

The dust returns to create spectacular sunsets on Feb 15th

by Kate Doyle, ABC

Lidar showed the sulphates and aerosols were back over Australia from Feb 15th:

The aerosols are still very high, well up in the stratosphere:

“[It’s] showing us what is probably mostly sulphate aerosols (maybe a bit of volcanic ash) around 25 km in height in the stratosphere, sitting well above the troposphere where the clouds are,” according to Dr Tupper [of Natural Hazards Consulting]

Earlier this week, volcanic aerosols could be seen in the stratosphere over eastern Australia using LIDAR imagery.(Supplied: NASA)

On February 15th volcanic aerosols could be seen in the stratosphere over eastern Australia using LIDAR imagery.(Supplied: NASA)

Since the initial explosion, the plume has been circling around the atmosphere, too high to affect our day-to-day weather, but adding a red glow to sunrises and sunsets. The plume has now roughly made its first full loop of the globe and has been travelling over Australia again this week.

“So that’s why we’ve seen these really glowing skies at sunrise and sunset,” Mr [Graham] Creed said.

“The interesting thing is that at sunset you can actually see the meteorological sunset, which is when the clouds change colour but as the sun goes over and it starts to go dark that’s when the volcanic ash was illuminated and was bending and refracting the light.”

Andrew Miskelly noted a haze in satellite images over Australia at the same time. Something is going on up there, but how much do we really know?

 

Hunga-Tonga isn’t expected to cool the climate much:

The latest estimates of the effect of Hunga Tonga are that the cooling impact will be smaller, because the amount of sulfur dioxide was only 2% of what the Pinatubo eruption released. However the underwater explosion reached far up into the stratosphere, nearly 40km altitude, so those particulates may be suspended for a long time.

Indeed NASA estimates the plume even reached 58km at it’s highest point, right up into the Mesosphere. “The Tonga plume was 1.5 times the height of the Pinatubo plume.”

“When volcanic material goes this high into the stratosphere, where the winds are not as strong, the volcanic ash, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and water vapor can be transported all over Earth,” said Khlopenkov. Within two weeks, the main plume of volcanic material circled the globe, as observed by the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite, as well as the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite on the Suomi-NPP satellite.

Aerosols from the plume have persisted in the stratosphere for nearly a month after the eruption and could stay for a year or more, said atmospheric scientist Ghassan Taha of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“The combination of volcanic heat and the amount of superheated moisture from the ocean made this eruption unprecedented. It was like hyper-fuel for a mega-thunderstorm,” said Bedka. “The plume went 2.5 times higher than any thunderstorm we have ever observed, and the eruption generated an incredible amount of lightning. That is what makes this significant from a meteorological perspective.”

NASA

 

The chemistry of a volcanic eruption on the climate

Not including the electrochemical wildness of Hunga Tonga.

b Schematic of volcano injection of aerosols and gases.

Author: cflm | Wiki

We don’t understand the sulphate chemistry of the climate very well:

The chemical reactions affecting both the formation and elimination of sulfur aerosols are not fully understood. It is difficult to estimate accurately, for example, whether the presence of ash and water vapour is important for aerosol formation from volcanic products, and whether high or low atmospheric concentrations of precursor chemicals (such as SO2 and H2S) are optimal for aerosol formation. — Wikipedia

The cooling effect (due to SO2) will be smaller than most volcanoes:

Tonga Volcano Eruption To Have Smaller Cooling Impact on Climate Change Than First Thought

The largest volcanic eruption of the last 500 years, the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in April 1815 caused the so-called “Year Without a summer” in the following year in many parts of the world. There is a reduction in annual mean surface temperature over the tropics and northern hemisphere by 0.4-0.8°C.

But the Tambora eruption emitted 53-58 terrograms (Tg) of SO2. Satellite measurements of the eruption at HTHH—which has erupted multiple times over the past century—showed that its volcanic ash has reached an altitude of 30 kilometers deep into the stratosphere, with a total mass of only about 0.4 Tg.

….the 1991 explosive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philipines produced a cooling of about 1.1 degree F (0.6 degree C) that lasted for nearly two years. But the ash spewed into the air by Mount Pinatubo contained about 50 times as much sulfur dioxide as the cloud produced by Hunga Tonga.

The usual models of volcanoes have no prior event like Hunga Tonga to use to make predictions from. The cooling effect may well be due to salt or charged particles, and who knows what that water vapor will do up in the Mesosphere?

Hunga-Tonga was like a 4 to 18 megaton TNT bomb

Commentary from NASA:

This is a preliminary estimate, but we think the amount of energy released by the eruption was equivalent to somewhere between 4 to 18 megatons of TNT,” said Garvin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “That number is based on how much was removed, how resistant the rock was, and how high the eruption cloud was blown into the atmosphere at a range of velocities.” The blast released hundreds of times the equivalent mechanical energy of the Hiroshima nuclear explosion. For comparison, scientists estimate Mount St. Helens exploded in 1980 with 24 megatons and Krakatoa burst in 1883 with 200 megatons of energy.

Most Surtseyan style eruptions involve a relatively small amount of water coming into contact with magma. “If there’s just a little water trickling into the magma, it’s like water hitting a hot frying pan. You get a flash of steam and the water burns burn off quickly,” explained Garvin. “What happened on the 15th was really different. We don’t know why — because we don’t have any seismometers on Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai — but something must have weakened the hard rock in the foundation and caused a partial collapse of the caldera’s northern rim. Think of that as the bottom of the pan dropping out, allowing huge amounts of water to rush into an underground magma chamber at very high temperature.”

The temperature or magma usually exceeds 1000 degrees Celsius; seawater is closer to 20°C. The mixing of the two can be incredibly explosive, particularly in the confined space of a magma chamber. “This was not your standard Surtseyan eruption because of the large amount of water that had to be involved,” said Garvin. “In fact, some of my colleagues in volcanology think this type of event deserves its own designation. For now, we’re unofficially calling it an ‘ultra Surtseyan’ eruption.”

 

Twitter INFO

#tropomi #Copernicus  | #Sentinel5p  |  #HungaTongaHungaHaapai

9.6 out of 10 based on 73 ratings

89 comments to Did volcanic dust from Hunga Tonga cause flooding in Australia?

  • #
    Broadie

    Or? From Watts up with That Solar page

    We should be heading back to the past say the 1700 ‘s to understand these weather events.
    I have been watching the string of monsoonal lows sit over the top of Australia while the forcing Highs that travel across the Australian Bight do no appear to disturb this pattern too much.

    My question from the Meteorologists (excludes BOM of course as a true scientist does not destroy historical data) is whether the system has been affected by the pressure coming of our atmosphere during a phase of low solar activity?

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    • #
      Furiously+Curious

      What I noticed on ventusky a couple of days ago, was a perfect ring of lows circling the globe in the low latitudes, while the tropics has a band of 1010 pressure, all the way around the world. Today a high is pushing down in the South Tasman, and interrupting the perfect ring of lows.
      I wonder how the Tonga volcano affected the Southern jet stream?

      70

      • #
        Graeme#4

        In WA, when we have strong La Ninas, I have noticed that the continual tropical ridge that forms close to the WA coast pushes the fronts, that normally sweep through Perth and lower SW, down into the Bight. Then Perth cops continual hot weather with very little relief. This hasn’t occurred since the mid 1970s, when the last big La Niña occurred.

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    • #
      Broadie

      I forgot to add:
      My memory is the same pattern sat over the top end of Australia last year – sans volcano. Brought back memories of my childhood when I listened to ABC radio. The weather was ‘monsoonal trough in the Gulf’ and ‘High in the Bight’. Those days are long gone, the fear porn on full rotation has ruined radio for me. Even Macca had a crack at the people asking for Freedom in Canberra. Evidently someone could not get their market stall to the Farmer’s market that week-end.

      So pressure off the atmosphere from solar winds = Mr Musk’s near earth satellites drop from orbit due to increased friction.

      Here is Jo’s observation in 2014 that rings true today.

      I suspect we’ll be referring back to this paper, and I hanker for more TSI comparisons with other sites and regions.

      40

  • #
    Furiously+Curious

    I read this article on WUWT a few days ago, and right from the start of the comments they had a discussion about the effects of high latitude volcanic eruptions on the northern hemisphere weather.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2022/03/08/new-study-questions-explanation-for-last-winters-brutal-u-s-cold-snap/

    60

  • #
    MichaelinBrisbane

    We can now add this to the list of things our PM Morrison didn’t stop.

    231

  • #
    Furiously+Curious

    Someone’s interesting comments from the article.
    “The Jet Stream being the lowest latitude and lowest altitude manifestation of The Polar Vortex.
    Despite being very big and moving at very high speed, the vortex actually contains very low amounts of energy, hence why it’s cold. It moves with laminar flow = it has very low turbulence/mixing – hence the high speed.
    “But all those things mean that it is very ‘fragile’ – it breaks easily.
    And that is what volcanoes and old pacific storms do, they inject energy (= the observed sudden warming) and the vortex repays the favour by becoming turbulent.
    It breaks, and bits fly off.
    Always to lower altitude and always in a South Easterly direction (for the northern hemisphere anyway)

    After that, anything can happen anywhere BUT, if you live in a desert, those ‘happenings’ can be rather extreme.
    As Texas found out.”

    70

  • #
    Honk R Smith

    No, no, no.
    Massive geo tectonic, solar, orbital and galactic mechanics couldn’t possibly have more influence on weather patterns than the misbegotten newly evolved creatures self named Human.
    Or Humxn.
    This was an Anthropogenic volcano.
    All was bliss until we arrived and lusted for fruit, artificial lighting, and mechanical transportation.
    We are the scourge of nature.

    240

  • #
    Ross

    While we’re obsessing about the theoretical effects of man made CO2 on the world’s climate the real reasons for the changes in weather and climate go largely unstudied. When I say “we’re” I mean those public institutions we supposedly entrust with researching these events. Instead, the proposal of links beteween the Hunger Tonga eruption and resultant high rainfall in some parts of Australia are made by part time science realists such as Jennifer Marohasy. No one at the BOM or CSIRO etc would dare propose such a theory. It wouldn’t fit the narrative. It would be the equivalent of discussing aspects of COVID policies etc that would be deemed to cause vaccine hesitancy. In this case, climate hesitancy. This theory looks good to me- if it looks like a duck and goes quack it more than likely is a duck.

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  • #
    another ian

    As a range scientist I would never have dreamed to place a rainfall order that would have matched what we’ve had since January –

    – Big cumulative totals but no big individual falls, such that the main creek has just staggered past us twice in the time without getting out of the banks

    – rainfall spaced about optimum for pasture re-establishment and growth without getting the yellow-green colour that says run out of nitrogen

    So, re this lot of volcanic dust –

    What were the surrounding conditions for previous big wets like the early 1890’s, the early 1950’s and likely the early 1970’s that come to mind?

    80

    • #
      another ian

      Also Geoff Pickup (CSIRO Alice Springs) used to mention the evidence of paleo floods in the arid zone of Oz

      00

  • #

    Would there not be some form of “trace” material or isotope signal in the rainfall to suggest a linkage with such a volcanic dust cloud ?

    90

    • #

      There might be, but is anyone looking?

      And if it is an charged particle it may provide that seeding nucleus, but change in the process. What falls to Earth may not easily reflect what is going on “at height”. Ideally we’d have chemical sampling at many altitudes.

      80

  • #
    Ross

    Can I also say what a superbly written article. Articles like this were once quite common in mainstream media or even in “science” magazines. But, no more. The alternate view we don’t hear about on many technical type subjects. The stuff we all should have been freely allowed to consume during COVID, but it was disallowed, censored, cancelled.

    360

  • #
    Neville

    This is very interesting and perhaps we’ll understand more about the very heavy rainfall in outback South Australia etc with more research?
    But for loss of Human life very powerful storms like CAT 5 cyclones don’t always produce the worst results.
    The highest loss of Human life recorded for a cyclone was in Bangladesh in 1970. Yet that cyclone was just a CAT 3, but the area was low lying and heavily populated.
    And an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people lost their lives.

    100

  • #

    Interesting timing. Looking forward to further study.

    55

    • #
      el+gordo

      Hot on the heels of a nuclear winter, just a coincidence.

      It seems location, intensity and content will produce mix results. Of particular interest, our late 13th century drift into the LIA where volcanism played a significant role.

      50

    • #
      el+gordo

      The knock on effect.

      ‘Here we present precisely dated records of ice-cap growth from Arctic Canada and Iceland showing that LIA summer cold and ice growth began abruptly between 1275 and 1300 AD, followed by a substantial intensification 1430-1455 AD. Intervals of sudden ice growth coincide with two of the most volcanically perturbed half centuries of the past millennium.’

      (Miller et al 2012)

      20

      • #
        Peter Fitzroy

        There is evidence that the LIA was caused by the effects of european diseases on the inhabitants of North and South America – the observed changes in farmland due to lack of farmers was enough. As populations and farming recovered the LIA ended

        39

        • #
          el+gordo

          Cute hypothesis, but will require a link.

          10

        • #
        • #
          Kalm Keith

          More likely caused by variations in graphene levels in the immediate vicinity.

          10

        • #

          There is no ‘evidence’ the Little Ice Age was triggered or prolonged by the Black Death pandemic ,failed harvests, famines, abandoned farmland and demographic crashes ..If indeed the Yersina Pestis bacterium was the Black Death contagion, colder naturally forced temperatures have been [at least speculatively] attributed by infectious disease specialists to amplified pathogenesis such as the 541 Justinian Plague in the midst of the 536 -45 dust veil and tree ring downturn event. Analyses of the Antarctic ice cores show at least 45GT of carbon [ equivalent to ‘6 per cent of the pre industrial global living biomass ] was released into the atmosphere sometime between 1330 – 1350 CE. [ Siegenthaler et al 1988 ]. Afterwards atmospheric CO2 remained stable at 270 -280 ppm for centuries until the mid 19th century yet temperatures in the northern and southern hemispheres continued to deteriorate following the 1330 – 1350 45GT infusion. How does this data square with your preposterous theory ? In fact this anomaly is problematic for carbon dioxide induced global warming theory. 45GT is a huge amount of carbon .The Cahoutika culture of North America collapsed around the same time as the plague was decimating Europe, North Africa and the Middle East while the Yuan Dynasty was unravelling in China . If one examines the volcanic sulfate in the ice cores it is evident the enormous 1257 Samalas eruption and the spate of high VEI eruptions clustered in the timeframe 1275 – 1300 precipitated the LIA .Then came the cometary debris bombardments in the decades from 1300 – 1360 and all this contiguous with the 1280 -1350 Wolf Solar Minimum …It was a rare conjunctive ‘perfect storm ‘ of vulcanism , cometary debris and solar minima that caused the Little Ice Age and probably explains why the LIA was the coldest period of the Holocene …Remember there were four [ the Wolf, Sporer , Maunder and Dalton ] solar minimums spanning the 5 century expanse of the LIA and there was another intensification of vulcanism including Tambora that coincided with the closing bracket of the LIA [ “El Gordo’ neglected to mention this ]. The Franzen and Cropp peat mire index reveals extraterrestrial cobalt and Rare Earth Element [ REE’s ] indices peak in the 17th and 18th centuries corresponding to the frigid depths of the Little Ice Age . And they abruptly decline approximately 1800 CE near the terminus of the LIA .Isn’t that interesting ?.Humans have no control over the Sun’s erratic flaring and fading, volcanic eruptions or cometary dust influx and impacts.

          20

        • #
          b.nice

          “There is evidence…. “

          Sorry, I don’t see you produce any. Is this another fantasy ?

          00

      • #
        el+gordo

        Exhibit A: Samalas in 1257 AD.

        ‘The mass release was greater than for the Tambora eruption; Samalas may have been more effective at injecting tephra into the stratosphere, and the Samalas magma may have had a higher sulfur content. After the eruption, it probably took weeks to months for the fallout to reach large distances from the volcano. When large scale volcanic eruptions inject aerosols into the atmosphere, they can form stratospheric veils.

        ‘These reduce the amount of light reaching the surface and cause lower temperatures, which can lead to poor crop yields. Such sulfate aerosols in the case of the Samalas eruption may have remained at high concentrations for about three years according to findings in the Dome C ice core in Antarctica, although a smaller amount may have persisted for an additional time.’ (wiki)

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  • #
    David Maddison

    I feel sorry for people who have suffered due to flooding but people need to take some responsibility NOT to build in flood zones which are all well known in advance.

    I have never bought a property without checking if it’s in a flood zone or not.

    And don’t blame corrupt developers and corrupt local government for building in those areas. Ultimately no one forces people to buy there.

    Don’t forget the influence of Flim Flammery who claimed without evidence that there would be insufficient rain to even fill the rivers due to “climate change”. (It didn’t stop him from buying an expensive waterfront property however.)

    Plus greens stop the building of dams and levees thst could moderate the flooding.

    Some people are rebuilding homes for the third time in three years. What does it take to convince they have built in the wrong area?

    341

    • #
      Broadie

      Plus:
      Someone shut the Cement works and stopped the dredging of the rivers for sand and gravel.
      Plus:
      the ports were moved closer to the river mouths due to larger vessels, better bulk handling and containerization. So no dredging for shipping.

      130

      • #
        Serp

        You’d think dredging gravel and sand would be considered part of the sustainability agenda but no it’s reviled as much as coal burning is by our green brethren with whom we must continue to live in amity and concord against the day when the scales fall from their eyes.

        80

  • #
    Graham Richards

    It appears that this event was probably as bad as a vaccination to some.

    70

  • #
    Mike Jonas

    Hunga Tonga may indeed have been the immediate cause – I’ll leave that to others. However, increased rainfall over the next few decades is predicted:
    https://agu2021fallmeeting-agu.ipostersessions.com/Default.aspx?s=15-EC-92-A3-1D-16-E6-E7-17-CF-0F-06-DE-01-7E-3E&

    In summary, recognition of the cycles of flood-dominated drought-dominated time spans as a phenomenon associated with the Gleissberg cycle allows prediction of the next flood-dominant cycle in south-east Australia to commence within about a decade before or after 2033. It may have commenced already with the 2020-21 La Nina (currently extending into 2022). We may expect it to be influenced by future La Nina events, and note that predictions of Leamon et al are for La Nina events in 2020-21 (already validated), 2027-28 and 2032-33.

    The paper uses data which includes Lake George water level variations. It may be worth noting that Lake George is now nearly full already, having been dry or very low since the 1980s, and it started filling before Hunga Tonga erupted.

    90

    • #

      Much of the East Coast was well saturated following an exceptionally wet 6+ months before these latest heavy flooding incidents which were really just the “straw that broke the camels back” !

      10

    • #
      Kalm+Keith

      ” Lake George is now nearly full already, having been dry or very low since the 1980s, and it started filling before Hunga Tonga erupted.”

      Good one.

      00

  • #
    RickWill

    This post was inspired by Jennifer Marohasy who pointed out the weak La Nina conditions don’t really explain the floods in Australia this year.

    It is the persistence of the La Nina that has existed for the last two years. Once Australia inland cools, it becomes a moist air magnet. Normally central Australia is a permanent divergent zone because it is hotter than the surrounding oceans. However once it is saturated, it becomes a convergence zone drawing water into the middle from the surrounding oceans.

    The current La Nina has persisted since August 2020 although it did nudge into so-called neutral range for a brief period:
    http://bmcnoldy.rsmas.miami.edu/tropics/oni/ONI_NINO34_1854-2021.txt
    Atmospheric water across inland southern Australia was 63mm on the 1st Feb this year. Such widespread atmospheric water it unusual. For example, this is 1st Feb 2015:
    https://earth.nullschool.net/#2015/01/31/2100Z/wind/surface/level/overlay=total_precipitable_water/orthographic=-222.85,-9.73,315/loc=139.867,-29.315
    Just 13mm at the same location.

    The best guesstimate of residence time of water in the atmosphere is 7 days. It cycles relatively fast and one little volcano is not going to add much water. If it reduces surface sunlight then it will lower evaporation.

    High rainfall is the result of convergence. Ocean at 28C is inevitably a divergent zone while ocean at 29 to 31C will be a convergence zone. In February this year, Australia was operating as a convergent zone because there was enough atmospheric water to support cyclic convective instability. That requires at 45mm of atmospheric water.

    This is the convective potential over Australia on 26 Jan 2020:
    https://earth.nullschool.net/#2022/01/26/0200Z/wind/surface/level/overlay=cape/orthographic=-226.09,-16.21,315/loc=132.044,-28.411
    Same day in 2020:
    https://earth.nullschool.net/#2020/01/26/0200Z/wind/surface/level/overlay=cape/orthographic=-226.09,-16.21,315/loc=132.044,-28.411

    Now to the point, the moisture was already building to levels able to support cyclic convective instability before the eruption on 16 Jan:
    https://earth.nullschool.net/#2022/01/16/1000Z/wind/surface/level/overlay=total_precipitable_water/orthographic=-226.09,-16.21,315/loc=132.044,-28.411

    49mm of atmospheric water in central South Australia.

    80

    • #
      el+gordo

      Central and eastern Australia was awash between 60,000 and 50,000 years BP and it feels like volcanoes weren’t involved.

      Lake Eyre and all the others were full to the brim during that time span, the largest fresh water lake on earth supporting an abundance of life, including megafauna and humans.

      40

      • #

        Thanks Rick. That description of convergent versus divergent would explain the land of fires droughts and flooding rains.

        Though the day before the volcanic dust arrived the convective potential over the entire state of SA was 0.

        https://earth.nullschool.net/#2022/01/16/2000Z/wind/surface/level/overlay=cape/orthographic=-226.09,-16.21,968/loc=134.833,-42.509

        Did you mean to pick Jan 26th?

        If you click through the daily rain map of Australia in late Dec and early Jan, it’s a more normal summer Australian map where the rain is across the north and down the east coast.

        Rainfall patterns are quite low from Jan 1 – 18, then after the dust comes, there does seem to be more widespread rain.

        50

        • #
          RickWill

          Though the day before the volcanic dust arrived the convective potential over the entire state of SA was 0.

          There needs to be moisture before the convective potential can build. The moisture was already present before the dust cloud.

          I picked 26 Jan to point out how much water was present compared to other years. The salient point is that the atmospheric water was already building before the dust cloud. A consequence of the double dip La Nina.

          00

        • #

          Volcanic particulates and sulfate aerosol droplets are ideal condensation nuclei for rain clouds .I remember the bursts of intense summer precipitation following the Pinatubo eruption

          00

  • #
    el+gordo

    Jennifer mentioned the 1893 floods and I wondered if a volcanic eruption may have had an impact.

    ‘The 1893–95 Calbuco eruption was one of the largest ever to take place in southern Chile, with debris ejected to distances of eight kilometres, accompanied by voluminous hot lahars.’ (wiki)

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      El Gordo. Thanks. That volcano was 41 degrees south but very big apparently? I wish we knew more about it, and whether that dust, or how long that dust would take to spread as far north as Brisbane at 27 degrees South.

      Three weeks after that volcano, the area north of Brisbane received record rains, apparently connected to Cyclones though. But I assume that if volcanic dust were involved, it would amplify the amount of rain a cyclone could drop?

      The 1893–95 Calbuco eruption was one of the largest ever to take place in southern Chile, with debris ejected to distances of eight kilometres, accompanied by voluminous hot lahars.[citation needed] The 1893 eruption disrupted the daily life of German settlers in eastern Llanquihue Lake. In this area potato fields, cattle and apiculture was negatively impacted. Cattle were evacuated from the area and settlers lobbied the government of Jorge Montt to be relocated elsewhere.[10]

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calbuco_(volcano)

      Check the timing:
      “The first historically documented eruption began on 7 January 1893 and lasted until mid-January 1894”

      In Crohamhurst, north of Brisbane, the record and unusual rain started on Feb 1st 1893.

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    Peter Fitzroy

    Dust functions a nucleus for droplets, according to the CSIRO, and this effect is well studied.

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    Jennifer Marohasy

    “The underwater explosion made Hungo Tonga very different. Unlike Pinatubo or El Chichon, it didn’t carry a large weight of sulphur dioxide, but did carry a lot of water. The blast punched so far up into the atmosphere, because it was powered by a massive expansion of water vapor as the 20 degree water hit 1000 degree magma. The steam powered column drove a mix of salt, ash and particulates right through the stratosphere and into the mesosphere. It was possibly the biggest thunderstorm on Earth. The rising column generated a phenomenal 400,000 lighting strikes over a seven hour period. That towering electrical morass must have generated a wild-card mix of aggressively charged particles, and at altitudes we never normally see them. Who knows how long those zapped chemicals would take to drift back down to Earth and what mischief they might do on the way?”

    Jo, thanks so much for this accurate description! I’m guessing it is going to exacerbate a cooling trend.

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      lyntonio

      Thank you for all that you contribute to our awareness.
      Jo is perfect in providing a conduit.
      On the other side of things- BOM (with a miniature budget), is so prompt in assembling/reviewing volcanic data in our region, warning us of inherent dangers of crop failures, floods etc. Hard to explain, but drongos come to mind.

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        Thanks Jen, I really don’t know what effect this odd combination of salt, dust, ash, water and electrified molecules will have, especially way up in the mesosphere. I feel like we are in a chemistry-freak-zone.

        The rising column of water vapor will have dumped latent heat as it condensed out all the way up. So there will have been particles at all levels and layers and different directions of wind at different heights will carry them in different directions. We’re far above the jet streams.

        But I think we can safely say the biggest effects are likely to be at 20 South, a band that runs right through northern Australia, Madagasgar, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Southern Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Northern Chile, Peru.

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    R.B

    Kimba got 150 mm 17th-18th Feb in 1946. Wuddina, nearby had almost 120 mm. A little down south, Cleve had almost 160 mm.

    There was an eruption in Tonga in 1946, but in September.

    There were other major rainfall events in Jan and Feb in the area but that seems to be the biggest widespread event until recently, and similar in size.

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    another ian

    “Separating Science From Pseudoscience For Floods And Extreme Precipitation”

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2022/03/14/separating-science-from-pseudoscience-for-floods-and-extreme-precipitation/

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    John Hultquist

    Thanks for the information on the blast.
    The things that Earth can do without help from my SUV (actually I sold the SUV and bought a Ford 150 pickup) are amazing.

    Where are the photos of the water vapor and the path thereof?
    Likewise, was a major rainfall event forecast by your wonderful CSIIRO the day before the explosion, or at least an atmosphere laden with H2O?

    In summary, did the water come from the volcanic blast or was it already incorporated in the atmosphere?

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      John, all good questions. How do we even measure water vapor at 58km? Which satellite channels would pick it up or is there some other way to detect it?

      There were programs to reduce global temperatures by adding salt particles up high. This volcano did more than a fleet of salt pumping ships ever will. Is the salt really the active component here, or is it the water vapor? Or the charged molecules?

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    Geoff Sherrington

    Some papers are using recent instrumentation like Lidars designed for purpose, to study water vapour intrusions above the tropopause. The fires in SE Australia in 2019-2020 put large quantities of water way up there, also.
    And, it is a truism that if you have a big fall of rain, you had a big mechanism to get the water up into the sky. Geoff S

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      Geoff, how high up did those fires put the dust and water? I know they went stratospheric, but the dust went to New Zealand, so it headed East, not West. I was wondering how they compared.

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        Geoff Sherrington

        Jo,
        Here is quote –
        “Massive wildfires are known to generate pyrocumulonimbus — towering clouds of smoke that can reach into the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that lies between about 15 and 50 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. The smoke from Australia’s wildfires reached well into the stratosphere, as high as 35 kilometers.”
        Another study found ” Furthermore, the injected mass of water was estimated to be very high (27±10 Tg, about 3% of the total mass of stratospheric overworld water vapor in the southern extratropics).” Australian wildfire smoke in the stratosphere: the decay phase in 2020/21 and impact on ozone depletion. Kevin Ohneiser et al, 2022.
        https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-1097

        I think that understanding of big volcanic effects is improved by understanding of big fire events high in the atmosphere.
        One of these authors notes that instrumentation to look at events above the tropopause has only recently become available. Better to follow new data in science than to hang on to unmeasured. conjectures. Geoff S

        General: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2022/02/28/study-reveals-chemical-link-between-wildfire-smoke-and-ozone-depletion/

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        Ted1

        Methinks that here at. 32 degrees south the prevailing winds are westerly, but at the tropic they are easterly.

        The Sir Ivan fire on the bad day generated storms which lit new fires about 30 km downwind.

        Years ago I saw a farm burnoff generate a storm with 3.5 mm of rain about 10 miles downwind.

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    Another Delcon

    Great post Jo . We would never get this sort of detail from the well funded MSM who are still screeching mindlessly about ” climate change ” ( what ever that actually means , they have never defined that ) .

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      el+gordo

      At first it was global warming, then cleverly morphed into climate change and extreme weather. None of it is well defined.

      At this post in time every natural disaster is fair game.

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    Ronin

    Water expands 1600 times turning to steam, very explosive force when unleashed.

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    Hello all , long time lurker here , first post .
    Over the past 11 years I’ve been documenting new workings on termites nests and any correlation to large rain events .
    On the 11th of January this year I noticed and photographed a termites nest on the far south coast with new workings .
    From 11 seperate observations over 11 years I determined that we would be getting heavey rain in 2 weeks and 3 days .
    As it turns out it was a little over 3 weeks till we got the rain I was expecting . Something seems to be triggering the termites , possibly the earths magnetic field .
    On the 12th of March the same nest produced another patch of new workings . I’m expecting more heavy rain around Tuesday the 29th .

    I would suggest that the Tonga eruption and our recent rain events were coincidental .

    Before you say that “insects are just reacting to barometeric pressure” , how does an insect know it will flood 7 weeks in advance ?

    Russell

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    another ian

    Somewhat O/T but for those of experimental bent

    https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/usa/net-zero-targets/

    Via SDA

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    Honk R Smith

    This was a volcano of the unvaccinated.

    Wait … too late? I’m I behind the trend again? Dang.

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    Ed Zuiderwijk

    That picture of the railroad through Nullabor reminded me of similar vistas on the Panamericana highway in northern Chile during the devastating El Nino of 1982/83. There was so much rain and flooding of the desert that there were rivers where they didn’t even know there was a quebrada, a dry riverbed. The road was breached in countless place with whole sections washed away.

    Repair is straightforward. Just don’t forget put a culvert in at each place breached by the water. For the next time ….

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    JB

    Thanks for this! I have thought for a long time that volcanoes are wholly discounted with regards to their probable effects on weather. Think about it: Volcanoes are giant, vortical heat pumps (vortical as in vortex). They must have an impact on all kinds of atmospheric processes.

    Just west of the U.S. is the Kamchatka peninsula of Russia, covered with numerous volcanoes which are often erupting. I have no doubt that they as well as Alaskan volcanoes impact the weather of the North American continent. I have often been aware of the eruption of a Kamchatka volcano just prior to an early and unseasonable freak winter storm system hitting the Pacific Northwest.

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    JB

    Scientist Wyss Yim is one of the few looking at the connections between volcanoes and weather. He proposes that the volcano that rose up off the seafloor near the island of Mayotte, in a mere few months, provided the energy for the 2 cyclones (Idai and Kenneth, if I remember correctly) that whacked east Africa a few years ago. It makes complete sense to me. I would imagine that the heat/energy from a submarine volcano would rise upward in vortical fashion (as in vortex) in the same way as an aerial volcano and create the same kind of localized turbulence, the same localized heat pump effect.

    But, No-o-o-o-o…. Volcanoes have nothing to do with ‘global warming’! They are in no way extreme events that can have any impact on extreme weather! That would be too logical!

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    Jim

    Another point. Weather systems are not laminar. You can see that with clouds. Jet streams even carry the clouds. And the clouds mix. The high velocity streams form due to pressure differences, leading to an equalization in the pressure. A laminar flow implies a constraint to a form, there is no form discernable, only a meandering, wandering path. My guess is there is no one looking up now, outside? Just at ceilings? A shame.
    In the olden days, the 70-80’s science classes used to go outside and measure the pollution particles in rainfall, to see what was causing the precipitation. Aggeration around the dust particles, etc.. with all the earth sciences nowadays is no one doing that anymore?

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    CHRIS

    An example of Chaos Theory? I think not

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    Anton

    To generalise the subject a bit, has anybody seen this website about the effects of geothermal heat and activity on climate?

    http://www.plateclimatology.com/

    If you look at the Wikipedia page on El Nino, it says that some interactions between wind and waves in a certain region in the western Pacific Ocean somehow kick off a phenomenon which then acts to influence the entire world climate. The page is very short on explanation of the mechanism and I suspect this is a cover-up for ignorance. It just so happens that the sea floor in that region of the western Pacific is intensely heated geothermally from below. I am not totally convinced but the coincidence is striking.

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      el+gordo

      The Indo Pacific Warm Pool, always at a steady temperature, appears to be involved.

      There is a deep trench not far away but the science is mute on the subject, I’ll do further digging.

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      el+gordo

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariana_Trench#/media/File:Marianatrenchmap.png

      What if the heat is contained in small packets (because of the immense pressure) and gradually expands as it comes to the surface, creating a permanent warm pool.

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      el+gordo

      This is as close as they get.

      ‘The team now believes that the warm pool’s growth may stem from a fluctuation in subsurface currents. These currents, which are located several hundred meters below the ocean’s surface, travel from an area east of Japan to the warm pool. What Mehta’s data reveal is that the currents may be periodically gathering warm surface water from the subtropical Pacific and slowly channeling it beneath the ocean’s waves to the warm pool.’ (Earth’s Observatory)

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    UK-Weather Lass

    A really interesting article, Jo, and some inspired/inspiring commentary. Thanks to all concerned.

    Here is a interesting article about a famous Icelandic eruption in 1783 which had effects upon the British Isles and Europe that were written about before it was even known there had been an eruption.

    https://theconversation.com/how-18th-century-weather-diaries-shed-light-on-the-effects-of-an-icelandic-volcanic-eruption-on-scotland-156002

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    […] in southeast Queensland and later extending into northern New South Wales.   Jo Nova provides a detailed explanation of why this volcanic eruption was different and how it may have contributed to the torrential rains and […]

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    Rick

    Disclaimer; I know next to nothing about these kinds of events.
    That said, I note that the article describes the ash plume traveling east to west, but in all the animations it appears to be traveling in the opposite direction.
    WTF?

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    […] Queensland and later extending into northern New South Wales.   Jo Nova provides a detailed explanation of why this volcanic eruption was different and how it may have contributed to the torrential rains and […]

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    […] Queensland and later extending into northern New South Wales.   Jo Nova provides a detailed explanation of why this volcanic eruption was different and how it may have contributed to the torrential rains and […]

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    Linden

    I’m no expert. I’ve an interest in low lying islands.
    I found this article interesting and plausible. I spent four days sheltering from the rain, contemplating the stalled pattern.
    Hunga Tonga has been going for some time, has a land mass above water, and is still in position.
    There was an underwater explosion. It’s easy to call that explosion “Hunga Tonga”.
    But was it?
    The plume generation lasted a relatively short time
    It had an unusual cloud formation.
    It reached unusual heights
    And it has apparently unusual chemistry for a volcano.
    So was it a volcano, or something else?
    Is anyone asking that question?

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    Brian White

    Excellent deduction and reporting and it is right on the money. My observation from Brisbane was that the recent event was an acid rain event. It tasted very sour, it burnt plants, and has etched fungus and lichen off roofs and paths. It was most definitely seeded by the Hunga Tonga volcano.

    I can go further: I am an Agricultural Scientist with a life-long interest in Earth’s great seasons – these days politicised and known as Climate Change. My late father, Dr Andrew White, was a geologist with who shared this interest in the natural phenomenon of ice age Earth.

    The “equilibrium state” of our planet for the past 280 million years or so has been some form of ice-age, interspersed by relatively short 5-10000 year interglacial periods, one of which we are demonstrably at the end of. The switch from warm Earth to snow ball earth appears to be rapid and dramatic. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the snap-frozen mammoth of the Siberian Tundra. How cold does it have to be to snap freeze a well-insulated 12-tonne animal with their last chew of clover between their teeth, in standing position, you might ask? Someone thinks it was -158C.

    Religious texts around the world chronicle the trauma of Ice Age (Zoroaster) and flooding (all religions) reflecting the progression of the planet through cooling and warming.

    These rapid transitions always seem to coincide with an increase in volcanic activity, and many appear to coincide with meteorite impacts. External causes like impacts aside, could it be that a type of volcano is responsible for increasing the albedo/ reducing the amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth’s surface, and triggers a global cooling event?

    My late father knew the people involved with coral core drilling on the Great Barrier Reef, and realised this natural treasure is quite likely less than 8000 years old. We spent a lot of time in remote areas, which all showed signs of great abundance in ancient times: megafauna bones, tools, and this underwrote a story of continual change and great climatic variability. As keen fishermen, we scoured the deep reefs off Queensland’s coasts, and with our excellent echo sounders, plotted their continuous linear progressions parallel to the coast: drowned coastlines, representing equilibrium “stands” as the ocean progresses and retreats through ice age seasons.

    My father was one of the very few mineral explorers who made a point of employing indigenous workers whenever possible, and integrating them into his teams with respect and dignity. Because of this I got to spend a lot of time with the very last of the wild indigenous men, complete with initiation scars, a handful of spears and very broken English. We were told by them how the sea came up “last time”. The next part of the story is it goes back again. Every time.

    They told us about the Great Seasons, and then casually dropped in they know because they are into their third season here now. We now know from Vostok and other sources the period between ice ages is around 100,000 years. Everything those old men told me about this country has since proven true and I have no reason to disbelieve them.

    Being a geologist Dad was very interested in ocean floor rifts and their link to volcanism. He postulated that if you load up these stress zones in the deep ocean with lots of extra water from melting ice caps, then magma would be forced to the surface at hot spots and squeeze out like toothpaste from a tube.

    Of particular interest to him was the concept of “Verne Shots” – named after the famous French futurist of the 19th century Jules Verne. So what makes a climate-changing Verne-shot volcano? These volcanoes are typically cataclysmic in nature, and the ejecta is forced out at escape velocity: ~40000km/hr. Fast enough to shoot ejecta into space. Certainly fast enough to blast it into the ionosphere.

    For this you need a certain type of magma chamber, and it requires water at the eruption to provide the blasting power. It must have a lot of sulphur in its ejecta, it must be very hot and under high pressure, and it must occur under water, but not so deeply that the explosion is quenched by the ocean. Under these conditions, molten sulphur at 1800C hits cold sea water, causing the water to instantly sublimate to gas, exposing more molten sulphur to more water and so a water gas chain reaction takes place: A cataclysmic detonation.

    The velocity of the blast in the chain reaction knocks the sulphur and sulphate particles to nano-size aerosols. These settle in the ionosphere and are very resistant to falling out. Instead they align in the ionosphere in a more or less single layer similar to the way oil settles on the water. They may stay up there for 30-40 years.

    Then the Venetian Blind Effect comes into play. When the sun is on these nano-sulphur particles they change orientation to lie against the sun, reflecting a percentage of its energy back into space. At night, the particles realign side-on, allowing infrared energy to escape, cooling the planet. This is how Ice Age is triggered. It is an internal feedback mechanism the planet has to keep it from getting too hot or too cold.

    Pinatubo happened on land, but being a land-based Verne-shot sulphur volcano, gave enough of these nano sulphur aerosols to give 15 years of pack ice, saving the polar bear from extinction. Is Hunga Tonga big enough to do more than Pinatubu?

    At more than 0.5km3, Hunga Tonga might have just rung the bell for the next ice age.

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      A really interesting comment Brian. Thank you.

      The Hunga Tonga eruption apparently had a very low sulphur content so we may be spared from long term effects, but I’ve not seen any good discussion yet of what all the water vapor does up in the Mesosphere, nor how long even a small amount of sulphur will stay suspended above 50km.

      I’ve also not seen any discussion of the charged molecules that must surely have come from the biggest and highest lightening storm on the planet (that we know of). I suspect it is those highly charged molecules that could wreak a lot of mischief and all the climate models are only looking at sulphur.

      We don’t normally publish comments so long. (Just so you know, best aim for more like 200 – 400 words, thanks).
      Exception made this timne…

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    […] Did volcanic dust from Hunga Tonga cause flooding in Australia? […]

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