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A Singaporean expert believes that the Tonga volcano eruption-Xinhua will have minimal global environmental impacts

A Singaporean expert believes that the Tonga volcano eruption-Xinhua will have minimal global environmental impacts

SINGAPORE (Xinhua), Jan. 19, 2009 — A weather and climate expert stated Tuesday that he does not anticipate a significant impact on the global environment due to the recent eruption of Tonga’s volcano.

According to NASA data, Tonga’s eruption is quite large. The volcano erupted with gases and dust that reached up to 30km, according Koh Tieh Yong.

In an interview with Xinhua, he stated that when you inject a substance to 30 km high, it has passed beyond the layer in the troposphere. There you have all the weathers going into the next layer of atmosphere known as stratosphere.

Two possible effects of the gases entering the stratosphere are sulfur dioxide or carbon dioxide.

The sulfur dioxide gasses from the eruption had entered the stratosphere and would have been transformed into sulfur crystals. The sulfur crystals scatter sunlight and thus less sunlight reaches earth’s surface. This theoretically could help cool the earth’s surface.

NASA data suggests that the amount of sulfur dioxide released is approximately 400 million kilograms, which is 50 times less than what was produced by the Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines in 1991.

He said that Pinatubo’s eruption had caused a cooling effect of 0.6 degrees Celsius on earth’s surface. “This one in Tonga with 50x less sulfur dioxide will not have any significant impact on the world’s surface.”

People might be concerned about the carbon dioxide being ejected into our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that causes global warming.

Because the volcano ejects negligible amounts of carbon dioxide, it emits a smaller amount than that emitted in the transport and industries.

He stated that “So one can be sure that not much global effect will be seen.” However, he said that local impacts still exist.

Winds will carry the dust from volcanoes around the world, and it will eventually settle down in Tonga. The dust would cover plants and buildings, etc.

This would have an effect on the local environment but it would only last for one or two weeks before it would be over, he stated.

He stated that while there are no long-term environmental impacts, the volcano would have other effects beyond the atmospheric.

It is possible that an eruption can be followed by smaller eruptions. He said that it all depends on how many gases and dust are being ejected by a volcano.

Koh stated that the event is still new and it was hard to predict what would happen in coming days.

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