Violent Tonga Volcanic Explosion Extremely Rare | The Sound & Lightning

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 20, 2022, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author; Image Credit AdobeStock

The massive volcanic explosion that obliterated the young island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai in Tonga on January 15, 2022 stunned volcanologists and experts around the world. “This is by far the highest volcanic plume we’ve ever measured with CALIPSO,” said Jason Tackett, a researcher at NASA’s Langley Research Center, as reported in NASA’s Earth Observatory article. Tonga is a nation of more than 150 islands with less than 100,000 inhabitants living on 35 of the islands.

Although earthquakes, and volcanic activity and eruptions, are common along the Ring of Fire — a massive tectonic belt that stretches around the rim of the Pacific Ocean in a sweeping arch from the Eastern shore of Australia up to Japan, across to Northwest Canada, the Western US coastline, Central America and down along the South American coast. The force of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai explosion was extraordinary. News reports assert that no one could have anticipated this. James Garvin, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center chief scientist told NPR: “They weren’t ash — they were solid rock, blown to bits,” he says. “It was quite amazing to see that happen.”

The blast abruptly cut off all communication with Tonga and we’re only just beginning to learn of the country’s fate.

“All agriculture is ruined.”

Lord Fakafanua, Speaker of the House

The Force. The violent explosion was so powerful, it was picked up by NASA satellite and shocked the world with its extraordinary breadth, stretching 300 miles in diameter. According to The Pilot, “This was a rare disturbance…Eruptions this violent only occur once every 1,000 years.” Scientists speculate that the strength of the eruption had something to do with sea water seeping into the magma causing it to be much more explosive than typical volcanic eruptions. Water gets trapped. It heats up and is vaporized until it eventually explodes. 

  • It was so destructive that the middle section of the volcanic island completely collapsed.
  • James Garvin told NPR that the explosion was equivalent to 10 megatons of TNT, 500 times the force of the World War II nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. 
  • It created atmospheric shock waves.
  • Materials from the explosion were injected 19 miles high into the air and penetrated the stratosphere, with trace amounts reaching as high as 24.7 miles.
  • Triggered tsunamis that hit multiple countries thousands of miles away: Canada, US, Peru, and Japan. 
  • Sonic boom so loud it could be heard in Alaska, the UK and India.
  • Loudest event anywhere on Earth in the past 100 years.

The Lightning. According to The Pilot, the staggering volume of lightning associated with the Tongo volcano has never been seen before.

  • 200,000 lightning strikes in one hour.
  • Friction created by the ash and dust found in the soaring plumes ignites and forms lightning bolts.
  • Hot ash tracks up the plume and reaches the cold atmosphere which creates even more lightning.
  • The drier the ash, the more lightning will occur.
  • Presence of lightning is increased exponentially by the existence of water in the magma. The unprecedented volume of lightning associated with this particular volcano confirms the rarely seen water in the magma.

The Tsunami.

  • All the homes on Tonga’s Mango Island were destroyed. Flooded coastlines in the Pacific from West Canada, the US, South America all the way across to Japan.
  • 6,000 barrel oil spill off the coast of Peru caused an ecological disaster that has killed thousands of wildlife covered by oil. Peru’s foreign minister is asking Repsol to compensate all the fishermen who have lost their livelihoods due to the spill.
  • Flooding in Santa Cruz, California went viral on social media.
  • There are always “miracles”: Lsala Folau, a 57 year old disabled man was swept out to sea when the huge tsunami wave knocked him off his ladder while painting his house. He swam nearly 5 miles, and after 27 hours, he reached the large island of Tongatapu, per The Telegraph.

Climate and the environmental impact.

  • The sulfur dioxide emitted during volcanic eruptions that reaches the stratosphere can cool the planet for months, and in some cases, as we saw in the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991, can cool the planet by 1º for up to a year. 
  • There are likely a number of scientists who might dream of monthly large-scale volcanic eruptions as a short term fix to our climate crisis. But apparently, despite it’s strength, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai explosion isn’t projected to impact our current state of overheating. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, the Tonga eruption only emitted .4 teragrams of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, nowhere close to the 5 teragramsneeded to cool the planet.
  • The higher water levels, a result of global warming, certainly caused much higher waves, and much more flooding along global coastlines than would have otherwise been the case. 
  • The sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide released in the eruption will result in acid rain across the region that will result in catastrophic crop loss.
  • The oil spill that destroyed beaches along Peru’s shoreline near Lima will take a great deal of painstaking effort and time to clean up.

In the months that follow, scientists will be studying the remaining fragments of what once was the volcanic island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai. This uninhabited volcanic island had a very short existence, emerging from the sea in 2015 following a century of volcanic eruptions. There is a lot to learn from this unusual and extreme natural event. Stay tuned fro more information. 

“Nature has no boundaries.” 

The Pilot

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Top 9 Immediate Concerns with Extreme Heat

Washington (GGM) Analysis | August 18, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

Human civilization evolved during the most stable climate conditions in the history of the Earth. Scientists refer to this era as The Holocene Epoch, a period of global temperature variations rising and falling between +/-1ºC, but never exceeding the +1ºC. This stability provided more than ten thousand years of reliable four seasons and predictable weather patterns. 

Now, for the very first time, we are above 1ºC. There is global alarm. Scientists are warning that we’re meeting this formidable foe decades earlier than expected. That with the melting icecaps, temperatures will rise much more rapidly. Many scientists warn that the temperatures might actually skyrocket exponentially. 

We are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory.

World Climate Research Program Director David Carlson
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The sixth IPCC Report, released Monday August 9, 2021, outlines that scientists have no data or compass to accurately predict the future, nor accurately calculate the impact the extreme heat will have on every aspect of our lives. Reaching this dreadful heat marker this early has caught us off guard, and requires immediate action to curb the life-threatening negative impact.

Heart of the matter. Below are the top 9 immediate heat concerns to wrap our minds around. We should view each from the perspective of a citizen scientist: a learning experience to document and share with others.

  1. Work Performance. According to UCLA Assistant Professor for Public Policy Dr. Jisung Park, “heat hurts.” “Using data covering the universe of injury claims from the nations largest worker’s compensation claims,” Park and colleagues explored the link between heat and workplace safety and determined that injuries are more likely when temperatures are above a heat index of 90ºF.
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  1. Food Supply. Drought across the United States farmland in 2021 has dramatically reduced crop yield and impacted our overall food supply. Although the amount of rain is important, and having little of it causes great concern, the more notable telltale is soil moisture. Regenerative farmers and ranchers like Gabe Brown in North Dakota, have worked hard for decades to strengthen soil health on their land using an armor of diverse cover crops. This practice locks in soil moisture, which protects their crops in the event of a drought. But in general, according to Successful Farming: “Soil moisture levels, nationally, declined fast, with topsoil and subsoil both down 4% in adequate/surplus.” Conditions for conventional farmers are not looking good for a profitable harvest this autumn. Additionally, the public was advised several years ago to begin planting our own vegetables in case our food supply was threatened. Those of us who did, may have noticed that tomatoes don’t pollinate in high heat this summer and we only netted a few tomatoes per plant in Northern Virginia.
  2. Water. Years of drought out West have resulted in cascading negative fallout that has crimped the daily routines of millions of Americans. A water shortage has just been declared at Lake Meade along the Colorado River in Nevada. Lake Meade, now at a trifling 34 percent of capacity, is the largest reservoir in the US and supplies 25 million people with their water. Water restrictions have been established in many communities.
  3. Pets. Pets are often left in cars when owners dash into the grocery store or post office. Pets can die of heatstroke in 15 minutes in a hot car, and cracking the window won’t help. Further, asphalt is 40-60 degrees hotter than the air temperature, so walking our dogs on the scorching hot asphalt without little booties will fry their paws.
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  1. Explosions. There have been multiple random explosions at sites in the US and abroad, several of which have resulted in tragic deaths. These need to be properly investigated so we can learn if heat is causing spontaneous combustion. There are thousands of hazardous waste sites around the country, some of which are nuclear. Extreme heat has the potential to result in catastrophic blowback at all of these sites.
    
  2. Infrastructure. Extreme turbulence will become more common as the weather heats up and has the potential to result in passenger planes being violently tossed around, which may result in structural damage. New safety standards should be established in light of this potential constant stressor. Trains, subways, buses, and bridges are made of steel which expands in the heat. Cars have many plastic parts that can melt in the heat.
  1. Home Construction Safety Standards. The list is long and wide. Roofs must be reinforced to withstand the stronger winds and heavier rains. Sealants applied to exterior building walls will protect against frequent heavy downpours. New buildings should be required to have white roofs and white walls to reflect the sun’s energy.
  2. Lightning. Climate change has resulted in stronger and more frequent lightning strikes. In fact, three are more than 100 lightning strikes per second. One million lightning strikes that hit the ground per day. The vast majority of wildfires are started by lightning strikes. We need to make sure that our homes, and all structures, are grounded properly. New grounding standards should be established.
  3. Mental Health. According to American Psychiatric Association, extreme heat negatively impacts mental health. Therefore, we should all be mindful of the connection between the two, and be more aware of what symptoms to look for during heat waves.
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CALL TO ACTION. Contact your local, state and federal representatives and demand:

  • New OSHA protocols for those who work outside.
  • New building standards that guarantee roofs will be made much stronger, and exposed walls have a weather protection sealant. 
  • New requirements for new development homes be constructed with white roofs, and that parking lots and roads be painted white.
  • Lightning is bigger, badder and more frequent with the heat; all buildings need to be grounded, and grounded shelters should be required at all parks.
  • Stronger turbulence will undermine the safety of airplanes. There must be higher safety standards for planes as well as trains, subways and bridges made of steel. Melting plastic car bumpers are one thing, but engine tubes are another issue all together. Consumers shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of melting auto parts.

We’re all citizen scientists now. We should be taking notes about how the heat impacts every aspect of our lives and sharing details through social media so that we can learn from each other. Drinking plenty of water in the heat is essential. And remember, never chug ice cold water after being out in the heat, we can shock our bodies.

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Deadly Lightning, Beware | Climate Change

Washington (GGM) Analysis | July 13, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

Climate change impacts everything connected to weather, down to the small details. From the heat of a forest fire, to the strength of a hurricane, the amount of moisture in clouds, and the force of rain microbursts (rain bombs), down to the size and intensity of a lightning strike. 

Lightning strikes can kill, and are far more dangerous than 20 years ago when our atmospheric carbon level was only 370 ppm. (Today we’re at 416.72 ppm.) The National Weather Service keeps track of lightning deaths. Florida appears to be the state with the most frequent deaths by lightning. Walking along the beach during a storm is usually what nets the fatal outcome. Texas is close behind, with most of the deaths occurring while men are doing yard maintenance or working hard at a construction sight. The vast majority of deaths are men, 78 percent, and most often take place in yards, parks, beaches, and trails. From 2008-2018, the United States averaged approximately 30 deaths per year, although 2016 was a record breaker at 40 deaths.

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I’m still shaken by a recent near miss when I was out running in the evening last month and a storm rolled in. I was half way though 5K, and was pushing my luck, when I decided to keep on going despite the threatening dark clouds. No sooner did that thought pass through my mind, that an enormous lightning bolt stabbed the ground nearby. I screamed, dashed to my car and sped away. I now speculate that that’s what most likely happens to those who have met a grim fate. We keep doing what we were doing despite the pending storm, and rely more on what our weather app might show. That was my mistake anyway. (App indicated the deep red blob was 30 minutes away.) Approximately 10 percent of the lightning deaths occur when the shelter is struck by lightning. Most seek shelter under a tree.

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The heart of the matter. As explained in the Environment Journal, thunderstorms are a result of convection. The “heating of the earth’s surface by sunlight and infrared radiation causes water to condense as buoyant air rises.” Further, Sir David Attenborough explains in his powerful documentary A Life on Our Planetthe melting icecaps result in “less of the sun’s energy is reflected back out to space.” Thus, connecting these two dots, we should understand that whenever we see a news flash about the melting glaciers, be aware that this means more intense lightning bolts.

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Lightning is to be feared, not admired. It can cause an enormous amount of damage. Further, lightning starts most of the forest fires. As mesmerizing as it may be, again, it’s extremely dangerous. Don’t trust your app, trust what you see right in front of you.

Lightning facts:

∙approximately 100 lightning strikes per second across globe
∙lightning strikes the ground 8 million times a day
∙there will be a 12% increase in the number of daily lightning strikes with every 1°C warming
∙the IPCC report just revealed that global warming has increased by  2ºC, which boosts daily lightning strikes significantly
∙the air that lighting cuts through is instantly 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, 5 times hotter than the sun’s surface
∙lightning is bigger, badder & more destructive due to climate change

Towns and cities should be required to install the proper lightning infrastructure to protect citizens and property. Parks should be required to build safe lightning shelters.

Lightning Infrastructure:

∙lightning detection system
∙lightning warning system
∙lightning grounding system

Lightning is random and unpredictable. It’s a universal threat that impacts all 50 states. 

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