Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features Tongatapu, Tonga’s most populous island, which was recently covered in ash from an explosive volcanic eruption. On January 15, 2022, an underwater volcano in the South Pacific blasted ash and gas up to 12 miles in the air, completely obliterating a small, uninhabited island known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai.
The volcanic eruption was so powerful that it sent shockwaves around the world. The eruption also produced tsunami waves that slammed into the nearby communities of Tonga, destroying hundreds of buildings. The Tongan government reported that waves as high as 49 feet may have struck the west coasts of several islands, including Tongatapu and ‘Eua.
According to the United Nations, an average of two centimeters of ash coated surfaces across the island nation, and preliminary reports indicate that it has contaminated drinking water, disrupted transportation networks, and likely damaged crops.
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory