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Tonga eruption increases chance of temporary surface temperature anomaly above 1.5 °C

Abstract

On 15 January 2022, the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai (HTHH) eruption injected 146 MtH2O and 0.42 MtSO2 into the stratosphere. This large water vapour perturbation means that HTHH will probably increase the net radiative forcing, unusual for a large volcanic eruption, increasing the chance of the global surface temperature anomaly temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C over the coming decade. Here we estimate the radiative response to the HTHH eruption and derive the increased risk that the global mean surface temperature anomaly shortly exceeds 1.5 °C following the eruption. We show that HTHH has a tangible impact of the chance of imminent 1.5 °C exceedance (increasing the chance of at least one of the next 5 years exceeding 1.5 °C by 7%), but the level of climate policy ambition, particularly the mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, dominates the 1.5 °C exceedance outlook over decadal timescales.

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Fig. 1: Impact of the 2022 HTHH eruption on projected global average surface temperature anomaly between 2015 and 2035.

Data availability

The ERA5 data required to estimate the radiative perturbation caused by the HTHH eruption are available at https://cds.climate.copernicus.eu/cdsapp#!/dataset/reanalysis-era5-pressure-levels-monthly-means?tab=overview23, including atmospheric temperature, specific humidity (water vapour MMR), ozone MMR, cloud fraction, cloud liquid and ice water content, evaluated on pressure levels. ERA5 surface albedo and surface temperature variables are available at https://cds.climate.copernicus.eu/cdsapp#!/dataset/reanalysis-era5-single-levels-monthly-means?tab=form23. The SSP ERF time series used to estimate the global temperature response are available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5705391 (ref. 28).

Code availability

The FaIR v.2.0 simple climate model used to estimate the global temperature response is available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4683173 (ref. 20). The SOCRATES radiative transfer model is available at https://code.metoffice.gov.uk/trac/socrates/wiki15, with instructions on how to access in https://homepages.see.leeds.ac.uk/~lecsjed/winscpuse/socrates_userguide.pdf. Figure production code is available from https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7319240 (ref. 28).

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Acknowledgements

S.J. acknowledges NERC grant NE/L002612/1 and support from the European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative. S.J. and M.A. acknowledge funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research programme with grant agreement no. 821205 (FORCeS). R.G. acknowledges support of the National Centre for Earth Observation, contract no. PR140015. C.S. acknowledges the NERC/IIASA collaborative research fellowship scheme with grant no. NE/T009381/1.

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S.J., M.A. and R.G. designed the study. C.S. ran the SOCRATES offline radiative transfer calculations. S.J. computed the temperature response with FaIR v.2.0, analysed the results and produced the figure. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Stuart Jenkins.

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Nature Climate Change thanks Simone Tilmes, Daniele Visioni and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1 and 2.

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Jenkins, S., Smith, C., Allen, M. et al. Tonga eruption increases chance of temporary surface temperature anomaly above 1.5 °C. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01568-2

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