The accurate satellite record confirms that last month was an unusual weather period with higher than normal temperature recordings on both land and at sea. It was the warmest July since 1979, it tied with March 2015 for the second warmest departure from the norm and it was the warmest month for tropical land. Of course, the climate alarmists had a field day, with ‘global boiling’ now making an official UN appearance. Inexplicably missing from all the hysteria, however, was any mention that NASA scientists have recently confirmed that the Tonga volcanic eruption in January last year boosted water content in the stratosphere by a massive, and weather-changing, 10%.
Scientists have been shocked by the dramatic increase in water vapour spread around the globe by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano. Water vapour is the most powerful of all the greenhouses gases since, unlike the others, it traps heat across a wide part of the infra-red spectrum. It accounts for about 4% of all atmospheric gases, compared to 0.04% for carbon dioxide, but its effect is relatively short-lived since it re-enters the natural hydrological cycle. Nevertheless, Tonga water vapour and its associated clouds could last in the atmosphere for a few years, and scientists suggest both temperature increases and disturbed weather patterns will continue.
A group of NASA scientists have published a paper noting Tonga’s “high impact” consequences. Unlike most volcanic eruptions, Tonga released few aerosols such as dust and ash into the atmosphere which cause temporary falls in temperature. In 1815, Mount Tambora exploded on the island of Sumbawa causing widespread cooling and a subsequent “year without a summer”. In Tonga’s case, specific geological conditions threw vast amounts of super-heated water up to 50 kilometres into the air. Such is the “unprecedented” amounts of water involved, the NASA scientists believe it could remain in the atmosphere for serval years. The scientists say they will continue to monitor volcanic gases from this eruption, along with future ones, “to better quantify their varying roles in climate”.
Not that it is likely that the spoon-fed activists in the mainstream media will be much interested. Any warming will be gratefully seized upon to promote the so-called climate emergency, and the collectivist Net Zero political solution. The scientific jury is still deliberating on the effects of the Tonga eruption, but recent unusual weather changes occurring at a time when water vapour has been given such a massive boost, must rank as a possible cause. As the Daily Sceptic has often noted, the tragedy for any commentator too afraid to challenge the prevailing narrative about the climate is that whole areas of debate around physics, chemistry and geology are off limits for fear that alternative explanations will cast doubt on the carefully constructed political narrative.
Cliff Mass is the Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Washington. He has long been critical of catastrophising about individual weather events. According to Mass, the golden rule of weather extremes is: “The more extreme a climate or weather record is, the greater the contribution of natural variability, and the smaller the contribution of human-caused global warming.”
Earlier work from a group of European scientists had drawn attention to the scale of the Tonga discharge. They concluded that the unique nature and magnitude of the global stratospheric perturbation caused by Hunga “ranks it among the most remarkable climatic events in the modern observation era, with a range of potential long-lasting repercussions for stratospheric composition and climate”. They also observed that Hunga was likely to have been the most explosive event of the modern observational era, while comparisons were made to the eruption of Mount Krakatoa in 1883.
The latest work from NASA analysed satellite data showing the volume of water injected into the atmosphere between 12 and 53 kms. “We’ve never seen anything like it,” commented lead author Luis Millan. “We had to carefully inspect all the measurements in the plume to make sure they were trustworthy,” he added. Volcanoes rarely inject much water into the stratosphere. In the 18 years since NASA has been taking measurements, only two others produced appreciable amounts, but these were said to be “mere blips” compared with Tonga.
It seems that the smart alarmist money is backing the Tonga warming effect, with some shorting of the once promising El Nino boost becoming apparent. Signals from the latter stable are not wholly sanguine. Sea surface temperature departures from the norm, known as anomalies, are mixed, notes the U.S. weather service NOAA. “Collectively, the coupled ocean-atmosphere system reflected a weak El Nino” it adds. Odds can change – it is after all the weather. Forecasters are said to favour continued growth of the El Nino oscillation through the fall, peaking this winter with an 81% chance of “moderate-to-strong” intensity. In forecaster-speak, this translates as we haven’t a clue.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.