A massive volcanic eruption hit Tonga’s Hunga Tonga volcano this evening, generating a massive mushroom cloud over the Pacific Ocean while tsunami waves washed over nearby communities. The gigantic blast, which occured in the Pacific Ocean about 1,300 miles northeast of New Zealand and 2,000 miles southwest of Hawaii, was so loud its roar was heard across portions of New Zealand. Fiji, which is located more than 500 miles away, reported “loud thunder sounds” as the explosive volcanic eruption unfolded.
The volcanic eruption hit at roughly 5:27 pm local time. The volcano is located 40 miles south of the capital city of Tonga, Nuku’alofa.
1.14.2022: (correction on date) Large volcanic eruption near Tonga (Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano) today as seen from outer space. Shown on visible imagery using the Himawari satellite. #hiwx #tsunami #earthquake pic.twitter.com/Y18W7wvXl9
— NWSHonolulu (@NWSHonolulu) January 15, 2022
According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, there was an initial tsunami wave with a height of 2.7 feet in Nuku’alofa. The head of Tonga Geological Services, Taaniela Kula, urged people to stay indoors, wear a mask if they were outside and cover rainwater reservoirs and rainwater harvesting systems. Locals are reporting tsunami damage on social media, sharing images of dark clouds and pebble rain in communities closest to the volcano.
Entre vapor de agua, rayos y flujos piroclásticos, esta fue la pesadilla que se vivió en las cercanías del volcán #HungaTongaHungaHaapai después de su gigantesca erupción de ayer. pic.twitter.com/fvRuOYM1YY
— Alejandro S. Méndez ⚒️ (@asalmendez) January 14, 2022
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center also initially issued a Tsunami Advisory for American Samoa, saying there was a threat of “sea level fluctuations and strong ocean currents that could be a hazard along beaches.” Despite the magnitude of the explosion, though, there doesn’t appear to be any tsunami threat to Hawaii or the U.S. West Coast.
“A tsunami wave was generated by this eruption, ” the National Weather Service’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu, Hawaii said in a statement, adding “it was and continues to be a threat for parts of the Pacific located closer to the volcano. However, based on all available data, there is no tsunami threat to Hawaii.”
Stay safe everyone 🇹🇴 pic.twitter.com/OhrrxJmXAW
— Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau (@sakakimoana) January 15, 2022
Tsunami Alerts are up for New Zealand and Australia. A spokesperson for the Australian government said Tonga “is part of our Pacific family and our thoughts are with the entire community dealing with the impact of the volcanic eruption and tsunami.
“The Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs are monitoring the situation and Australia stands ready to provide support to Tonga if requested. Initial assessments are still underway and DFAT is working to ensure Australians in Tonga are safe and accounted for.”
Want to take a moment to compare last 2 eruptions of Tonga #Volcano. Can infer ash plume hgt comparing Bt of IR/WV to near radiosonde profile.
1/13 eruption got to ~15-20 km aloft.
1/15 eruption (today) possibly >30 km! Deep Stratospheric injection likely given sat signature. pic.twitter.com/Q1JSI1IHIr
— Philippe Papin (@pppapin) January 15, 2022
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano sits on an uninhabited island which has been experiencing unrest in recent days. Yesterday, this volcano experienced a significant eruption, sending ash, steam, and various gasses high up in the air. Scientists say yesterday’s eruption transported volcanic matter more than 65,000 feet high in the sky, almost double the height commercial jets use as their cruising altitude.
Eruptions of weaker intensity struck the volcano between December 29 and January 4, breaking a silent streak that was in place since the conclusion of an eruption in 2014-2015. An eruption struck the region 5 years before that in 2009.