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Surface-to-space atmospheric waves from Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption
  • +11
  • Corwin Wright,
  • Neil Hindley,
  • M. Joan Alexander,
  • Mathew Barlow,
  • Lars Hoffmann,
  • Cathryn Mitchell,
  • Fred Prata,
  • Marie Bouillon,
  • Justin Carstens,
  • Cathy Clerbaux,
  • Scott Osprey,
  • Nick Powell,
  • Cora Randall,
  • Jia Yue
Corwin Wright
University of Bath, UK, University of Bath, UK

Corresponding Author:cw785@bath.ac.uk

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Neil Hindley
University of Bath, UK, University of Bath, UK
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M. Joan Alexander
NorthWest Research Associates,University of Colorado Boulder, NorthWest Research Associates,University of Colorado Boulder
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Mathew Barlow
University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Massachusetts Lowell
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Lars Hoffmann
Forschungszentrum Jülich, Forschungszentrum Jülich
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Cathryn Mitchell
University of Bath, University of Bath
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Fred Prata
AIRES Pty Ltd, AIRES Pty Ltd
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Marie Bouillon
LATMOS/IPSL, Sorbonne Université, UVSQ, CNRS, Paris, France, LATMOS/IPSL, Sorbonne Université, UVSQ, CNRS, Paris, France
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Justin Carstens
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
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Cathy Clerbaux
CNRS Délégation Ile-de-France Sud, CNRS Délégation Ile-de-France Sud
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Scott Osprey
Oxford University, Oxford University
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Nick Powell
Raytheon Technologies, Raytheon Technologies
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Cora Randall
University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Boulder
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Jia Yue
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The January 2022 Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai eruption was one of the most explosive volcanic events of the modern era, producing a vertical plume which peaked > 50km above the Earth. The initial explosion and subsequent plume triggered atmospheric waves which propagated around the world multiple times. A global-scale wave response of this magnitude from a single source has not previously been observed. Here we show the details of this response, using a comprehensive set of satellite and ground-based observations to quantify it from surface to ionosphere. A broad spectrum of waves was triggered by the initial explosion, including Lamb waves5,6 propagating at phase speeds of 318.2+/-6 ms-1 at surface level and between 308+/-5 to 319+/-4 ms-1 in the stratosphere, and gravity waves propagating at 238+/-3 to 269+/-3 ms-1 in the stratosphere. Gravity waves at sub-ionospheric heights have not previously been observed propagating at this speed or over the whole Earth from a single source. Latent heat release from the plume remained the most significant individual gravity wave source worldwide for >12 hours, producing circular wavefronts visible across the Pacific basin in satellite observations. A single source dominating such a large region is also unique in the observational record. The Hunga Tonga eruption represents a key natural experiment in how the atmosphere responds to a sudden point-source-driven state change, which will be of use for improving weather and climate models.
22 Sep 2022Published in Nature volume 609 issue 7928 on pages 741-746. 10.1038/s41586-022-05012-5