Volcano eruption in Tonga was a once-in-a-millennium event

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The underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption has already triggered a tsunami, a sonic roar and thousands of lightning bolts, and could present pb to acerb rain

Earth 17 January 2022

By Alice Klein


Satellite photograph of the eruption


The monolithic detonation of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano successful Tonga connected Saturday was its astir almighty eruption since AD 1100. The after-effects person been felt astir the globe and the harm is inactive being counted.

The volcano, located astir 65 kilometres northbound of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, exploded with convulsive unit astatine 5:10 p.m. section clip connected 15 January. Satellite images amusement a mushroom unreality of ash billowing 30 kilometres precocious and aboriginal sweeping much than 3000 kilometres westbound to Australia.

A oversea level gauge astatine Nuku’alofa recorded a tsunami question of 1.19 metres earlier it stopped recording, and videos posted to societal media amusement waves crashing into houses. Large waves besides reached Japan, prompting evacuation orders, and Peru, wherever two radical drowned astatine a beach.

The grade of demolition successful Tonga is inactive uncertain due to the fact that the country’s main undersea telephone and net cablegram was damaged. New Zealand premier curate Jacinda Ardern said successful a property conference connected 16 January that she had received reports of boats and ample boulders washed ashore successful Nuku’alofa and harm to properties, but that determination was nary quality from different coastal areas. No deaths person been reported astatine this stage.

A New Zealand aerial unit level was deployed contiguous to measure the damage, but its findings have not yet been reported.

A last video of today’s explosive #Tonga #eruption.
This shows information from each 3 upwind satellites covering the area. From near to right: Korea’s GK-2A, Japan’s Himawari-8 and the US GOES-17.

Fascinating to spot the antithetic perspectives. pic.twitter.com/aB02QaayWx

— Simon Proud (@simon_sat) January 15, 2022

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is 1.8 kilometres gangly and 20 kilometres wide, but astir of it is underwater, with lone its apical 100 metres poking retired of the sea. It has been spewing ash intermittently and making tiny blast noises since 20 December.

The unit question generated by the detonation blasted done the ambiance astatine over 1000 kilometres per second and was recorded crossing the US, UK and Europe. The resulting sonic roar was heard successful adjacent Fiji, successful New Zealand and even successful Alaska, implicit 9000 kilometres away.

The eruption besides sparked astir 400,000 lightning bolts supra the volcano arsenic bits of ash and atmospheric crystal particles bumped into each different and generated electrical charges.

The Tonga volcano shockwave arsenic heard from Fiji, astir 1000 km distant ?

video from @portiajessene pic.twitter.com/V4SkzXX7nE

— Chris Combs (@DrChrisCombs) January 15, 2022

— Chris Combs (@DrChrisCombs) January 15, 2022

“Given the imaginable for further volcanic activity, determination is besides the imaginable for further tsunamis to beryllium generated,” says Hannah Power astatine the University of Newcastle successful Australia.

Atmospheric sensors person detected ample amounts of sulphur dioxide state released by the eruption, which could origin acerb rainfall to autumn successful Tonga and Fiji and impact crops and drinking water, says Shane Cronin astatine the University of Auckland successful New Zealand. However, the magnitude is not capable to origin planetary cooling – an effect that was seen aft the monolithic eruption of Mount Pinatubo successful the Philippines successful 1991, helium says.

This is the astir unthinkable #lightning loop that I person ever enactment together. #HongaTongaHungaHaapai #HungaTonga #Volcano eruption contiguous with astir 400k lightning events successful conscionable a fewer hours! pic.twitter.com/xqW70NLeVd

— Chris Vagasky (@COweatherman) January 15, 2022

Cronin and his probe squad camped connected Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai successful 2015 and noticed that the surrounding coral reef was lifting up, suggesting that magma was gathering underneath the volcano and could origin an eruption successful the adjacent future.

Several tiny eruptions person occurred successful the intervening years, astir apt arsenic immoderate of the increasing unit forced its mode retired of tiny fractures astir the borderline of the volcano, says Cronin. As the unit built up further, it led to the breaking constituent connected 15 January that caused the cardinal portion of the volcano to stroke out, helium says.

Satellite images amusement that that the above-water information of the volcano is present astir wholly obliterated. “You wouldn’t beryllium capable to campy connected it now,” says Cronin.

His squad recovered grounds of 2 erstwhile mega-eruptions occurring connected Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai successful AD 1100 and AD 200, suggesting they hap astir erstwhile each 1000 years.

The volcano has continued to erupt astatine a debased level since 15 January and Cronin says helium “wouldn’t beryllium amazed if determination were a fewer much explosive events,” successful the coming days oregon weeks. However, they are improbable to beryllium arsenic almighty arsenic the archetypal explosion, helium says.

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