Tonga volcano Rapid Response Experiment

Image: NASA CALIPSO, space based lidar

On January 15, the Hunga Tonga - Hunga Ha'apai volcano north of Tongatapu in the south west Pacific erupted with ash and sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas reaching into the stratosphere to altitudes up to or higher than 30 km. This eruption provided the opportunity to study the microphysical processes that occur when SO2 gas is emitted into the stratosphere and will help to improve the accuracy of atmospheric models. To take advantage of this rare opportunity, NOAA and CIRES scientists from CSL and researchers from the University of Houston traveled to La Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean, to make in situ measurements deployed by balloons that can rise to 30 km.

Observations will be made approximately a week after the eruption, which is the time it takes for the sulfur plume to travel westward ~8000 miles from the volcano location to La Réunion, where balloon launches will occur at the high altitude Maïdo Atmospheric Observatory. The effort required to make these measurements and respond rapidly to this opportunity has been substantial and builds upon past scientific relationships with scientists on La Reunion, who themselves are previous NOAA / CIRES employees.

TR2Ex is an Intensive Operating Period (IOP) of B2SAP, a NOAA Earth's Radiation Budget (ERB) Initiative Project.