Tonga eruption sent shock waves around the world •

Tonga eruption sent shock waves around the world

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in decades. The 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. 

News from the island nation of Tonga is sparse because communications have been basically cut off. Preliminary reports suggest that communities in Tonga have sustained heavy damage. This is particularly the case along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, which was hit tsunami waves and ash raining down from the volcano.

“The concern at the moment is how little information we have and that’s scary,” said Janine Krippner, a New Zealand-based volcanologist with the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program.

According to NASA, the volcano had sporadically erupted multiple times since 2009, and the most recent burst of activity – including ash and steam emissions – began in late December 2021.

After an unusually large blast on January 13, 2022, an explosion on January 15 was so violent that it produced an atmospheric shock wave that traveled around the world.

The image was captured by Advanced Baseline Imager on NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 17 (GOES-17). 

The eruption produced an umbrella cloud, and crescent-shaped bow shock waves rippled through the plume as it expanded out over the South Pacific, according to NASA.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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