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NASA’s Aqua satellite captures image of shapes in the clouds above La Palma eruption column

NASA’s Aqua satellite captures image of shapes in the clouds above La Palma eruption column

An image from NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this mysterious pattern of concentric waves appearing above the  Cumbre Vieja volcano, on the island of La Palma, last weekend.

The eruption has not been yet energetic enough to inject large amounts of ash and gases into the stratosphere, where they have the potential to create powerful and long-lasting effects on our climate and weather. However, it has been strong enough to produce a rising column of emissions that helped to form the remarkable pattern in the clouds pictured by the MODIS Aqua satellite on Friday October 1, NASA reports.

The target-shaped cloud was produced by a rising column of hot ash and superheated gases, known as an eruption column. This towering column of water vapour and other gases rose rapidly upwards until it met with a warmer, drier layer of air at an altitude of approximately 5.3 kilometres, according to information provided by INVOLCAN.

Gravity waves
The unusually warm air above – a temperature inversion – functioned as a lid, preventing the volcanic eruption column from rising any higher. Instead, it flattened and spread out horizontally.

Volcanic eruptions often have natural ebbs and flows to their intensity, the pulses in the upward flow of the column appears to have created concentric gravity waves as they have collided with the temperature inversion they spread outwards. The process looks similar to the way a stone thrown into a pond creates ripples.

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