The shock wave from the eruption moved away from the volcano at nearly the speed of sound. At 6.20 pm the same day, it hit Finnmark and headed south. After about 90 minutes, all of Norway has passed.
It is not this wave that scientists are now watching with great interest, but a series of much slower waves in the atmosphere.
The waves were picked up by NASA’s Aqua satellite. It seems to be the style you get when you drop a small rock into a perfectly calm pond. Scientists know what it is, gravitational waves, but they don’t know how they were made.
– That’s totally unique. We’ve never seen anything like this in our data before, says atmospheric researcher Lars Hoffmann at the Jülich Supercomputing Center in Germany. in nature.
Satellite images show a series of waves that stretched 16,000 kilometers from the volcano. The waves affected the entire atmosphere and may change the state of near space around the Earth. Space scientist Gareth Dorian writes I’m the conversation.
This is what the images show, but scientists believe that the waves circled the Earth several times.
Atmospheric gravitational waves occur when air masses move up or down. This usually happens when the wind hits the mountains. In Norway we just call them mountain waves.
Certainly the waves that sprang from the volcano in the Pacific Ocean were not formed by the winds meeting the mountains. The researchers did not find the mechanism.
– It’s all very strange. It must have something to do with the physics of volcanic eruption, says researcher Corwin Wright at the University of Bath to Nature, but we don’t know what.
What happened during the eruption was that large amounts of hot gases were sent very quickly 30 kilometers into the atmosphere. This caused the other air to move.
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Scientists believe that the gravitational waves were caused by gas flowing from the volcano. The challenge is that this type of volcanic eruption has occurred many times before, without it appearing that such high-strewn waves have caused.
The instrument in the satellite that captured this has been operating for 20 years now, and has never detected such circular waves before, says researcher Hoffman.
What the researchers emphasize is that the explosion had global effects. Energy from waves can have an effect on weather systems many thousands of kilometers away.
The outbreak may have lasted a short time, but its effects could be long-lasting. Gravitational waves can affect wind direction in the tropics, and that can affect the weather as far away as Europe, says climate researcher Scott Osprey of Oxford Nature.
– This is something we will follow closely, Osprey adds.
On Twitter, he illustrates the confusion now prevailing among researchers. The volcanic eruption led to the formation of many different waves. The challenge is figuring out how they affect each other and how this affects the rest of the atmosphere.
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