The eruption of the Tonga volcano created a vertical plume of water and ash, more than 50 kilometers in height, and the heat released remained the largest source of gravitational waves on Earth for the next 12 hours. The event also produced ripple-like gravitational waves that extended into the Pacific Ocean, as evidenced by satellite observations. Finally, it also generated atmospheric waves that reverberated around the planet at least six times and reached speeds close to the theoretical limit: 320 meters per second.
“This was a really massive and unique explosion, in terms of what science has observed so far,” comments Corwin Wright, the study’s lead. “We’ve never before seen air waves circulate around the entire planet – he adds – or so fast.” But the study authors also expect more effects: “My feeling is there’s more to this explosion,” says Scott Osprey of the University of Oxford, who was involved in the research. “While an extraordinary amount of water vapor spreads throughout the stratosphere – Osprey continues – everyone’s eyes will turn to the ozone hole and its extension when spring arrives in the Southern Hemisphere.”
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