SAGE III/ISS Sees Tonga Volcano Aerosols, Water Vapor Months After Eruption

Sept. 29, 2022, 10 p.m.


It has been over half a year since the 14-15 January, 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, otherwise know as the Tonga volcano, in the tiny island nation of Tonga. Scientists around the globe have studied this exceptional volcanic event from many angles, and most of the remote sensing observations have come from polar-orbiting and geo-stationary satellites. One in particular has been riding aboard the International Space Station (ISS) since June 2017. NASA’s Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III on ISS observes stratospheric ozone, aerosols, and water vapor from space through solar and lunar occultation.

A key part of NASA’s climate observing system, the SAGE III/ISS instrument observed dramatically enhanced, very concentrated layers of stratospheric aerosol particles (see image below) and water vapor as high as 42-44 km in altitude immediately following the Tonga volcanic eruption. In subsequent months, SAGE III/ISS continued to detect enhanced aerosols and water vapor in the Tonga region and around the globe. These details are part of a news article authored by SAGE III/ISS Communications Lead Allison McMahon. Click on this link to view this news article.

If you are interested in the SAGE III/ISS project or the products they offer at the NASA Langley Research Center ASDC data archive, please click the links below:
Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III/International Space Station project description
Direct Data Download
Earthdata Search

  • In this photo captured from the ISS in March 2022, the Earth’s limb is shown with a dark thin layer sitting in the bluish color of the stratosphere. This dark thin layer is remnants of the Tonga volcanic plume, lingering in
    Earth’s stratosphere months after the eruption that occurred in January 2022.
  • Credits: Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center; Photo number: ISS066-E-161686; PI: Jean-Paul Vernier, National Institute of Aerospace/NASA Langley Research Center

Related URLS: