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Science & Technology

Tonga eruption was largest modern atmospheric explosion

By T.K. Randall
May 15, 2022 · Comment icon 2 comments

The atmospheric plume could be seen from space. Image Credit: NASA / Kayla Barron
The eruption, which occurred in January, was larger than any other eruption or atomic bomb detonation in the last 100 years.
Given the force of the explosion and the fact that it produced a series of deadly tsunamis, the eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, which reached its climax on January 15th, resulted in surprisingly few deaths compared to other similar events in the past.

The Krakatoa eruption, for instance, which took place in 1883, most likely rivalled or exceeded the size of the atmospheric disturbance produced by the Tonga eruption but was many times more deadly, resulting in the deaths of more than 30,000 people.

Even so, the effects of the Tonga eruption were felt around the world and the atmospheric explosion was so significant that it has since been confirmed to be the biggest ever recorded by modern instruments.

"Tonga was a truly global event, just as Krakatau was, but we've now got all these geophysical observation systems and they recorded something that was really unprecedented in the modern data," said study lead author Dr Robin Matoza from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
16,500km away in the UK, the effects were picked up around 14 hours after the event itself.

"At the time, we had a laser cloud-base recorder looking at the cloud base and as the wave went through the cloud was perturbed," said atmospheric physicist Prof Giles Harrison.

"If ever you wanted evidence that the atmosphere is a remarkably interconnected thing, this was it. And what happens on one side of the planet can propagate around to the other side at the speed of sound."

Source: BBC News | Comments (2)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Manwon Lender 2 years ago
An underwater volcano erupted in January near the Pacific nation of Tonga and sent massive pressure waves racing through Earth's atmosphere, where they lapped the planet several times. The last volcano to generate such large ripples in the atmosphere was Krakatau in 1883, during one of the most destructive volcanic eruptions in recorded history, a new study shows. This atmospheric wave event was unprecedented in the modern geophysical record," said first author Robin Matoza, an associate professor in the Department of Earth Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The research,... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by Still Waters 2 years ago
Explosive Tonga volcano 'surprisingly intact' The Tonga underwater volcano that produced a spectacular eruption in January remains astonishingly intact. A New Zealand-led team has just finished mapping the flanks of the seamount, which many people thought might have been torn apart in the ferocity of the event. But structurally, Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha'apai hasn't changed that much. New Zealand's National Institute for Water and Atmospheric (NIWA) Research has now managed to get in close with a ship to map the post-eruption shape of Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha'apai (HTHH) and of the surrounding seafloor... [More]

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