Sulphur dioxide from St Vincent volcano eruption reaches India

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In a tweet on Friday last, the World Meteorological Organization announced that the sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions from the La Soufriere volcano eruption in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was tracked all the way to India.

This has now sparked fears of increased levels of pollution in the northern parts of the country and of acid rain – caused by a reaction of the SO2 with water.

“Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions from La Soufriere volcano eruption in the Caribbean have reached all the way to India,” said the World Meteorological Organization in its tweet.

La Soufriere’s April 9 eruption is one that, according to a NASA release, “worries volcanologists the most” as unlike the other 45 currently erupting volcanoes across the world, it has an “explosive and erratic eruption style.”

“What began as a dome of goopy lava slowly pushing from the summit crater in December 2020 has turned into something much more dangerous: several explosive blasts,” NASA said.

“The explosions propelled vast plumes of volcanic gas and ash high into the atmosphere. Superheated, high-density material episodically also raced across the land surface in destructive landslide-like events that volcanologists call pyroclastic flows.”

Ralph Kahn, a climatologist at NASA explained that those volcanic plumes can result in “aviation and air quality hazards.”

Further, it was explained that those volcanic plumes that reach and linger in the stratosphere can start to exert a cooling influence on global temperatures.

“The current thinking is that a volcano needs to inject at least 5 teragrams (5,000,000,000 kilograms) of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to have measurable climate impacts,” a Tech volcanologist, Simon Carn, at NASA explained.

After about a week of explosive eruptions, according to NASA, satellite measurements show La Soufriere has delivered about 0.4 – 0.6 teragrams of sulfur dioxide to the upper atmosphere.

That is already more than any other Caribbean volcano has produced during the satellite era and the amount of SO2 being vented out could increase if the eruption continues.

NASA scientists also concluded that moderate eruptions are usually far greater in number than huge eruptions and could have a greater cumulative impact.

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