Planet Earth

The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai underwater volcano in the Pacific finished off a small island located above it

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai underwater volcano erupted on the 15th of January in the Pacific Ocean and from it, the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga announced a tsunami threat. The results of the eruption were a huge release of pyroclasts into the atmosphere, a tsunami up to two meters high and a shock wave.

Although there was no information about casualties and significant damage, the eruption turned out to be so powerful that the tremors of the earth’s crust were felt thousands of kilometers from the volcano, in other island nations such as Fiji, and in the Americas. A huge cloud of ash is now spreading west towards Australia.

Wave heights of more than one meter were recorded on the coast of the island state of Tonga. According to island residents and tourists, the ground shook under their feet for several minutes, thunder was heard all around.

On the island of Vanuatu, the waves reached about two and a half meters.

Here’s what the event looked like from orbit. The first animation was made by the Japanese weather satellite Himawari-8:

Eruption animation number 2:

And here is how the event looked on the scale of the entire Earth. The images were taken by the GOES-West geostationary satellite:

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A few more satellite photos and videos collected from the vastness of the worldwide network, showing yesterday’s eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano in the Pacific Ocean. Here is another animation of this event from the GOES-West satellite. It covers the first hour of the eruption.

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And here is the second animation from the same satellite, but already covering a 12-hour interval. It demonstrates both the eruption itself and the subsequent propagation of shock waves, as well as gas and ash:

Apparently, the eruption finally finished off the small island located above the volcano. In fact, Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai began to show activity in December 2021 and pictures taken by various satellites show that the island began to disappear even before Saturday’s eruption. 

This is how it looked on January 7th:

And so on January 14th:

And here is what is left of the island, judging by the radar images taken by the Sentinel-1 satellite. As you can see, not very much.


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