It was not only one of the largest volcanoes, but also the fastest in history: an eruption.
Honga Tonga – Hong HappiOn the island of Tonga, Polynesia, shock waves were recorded with a speed of 1,158 kilometers per hour.
The conclusion comes from a study conducted by researchers from the University of Bath, UK. The study’s lead author, Corwin Wright, a researcher at
Academic Research of the Royal Societyassociated with the university.
The volcanic eruption in Tonga was so massive that a plume of smoke was visible from space, and its eruption caused a tsunami with waves up to 20 meters high.
The Tonga eruption occurred in December 2021 and peaked in January of this year. The volcano in question is located 65 km north of Tongatapu, the country’s main island. According to the Volcanic Explosion Index (VEI), the eruption reached five points, which is considered “catastrophic” in official ratings.
Officially, it was the largest eruption of the 21st century and the largest in the past 30 years on average, second only to the Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines. In Tonga, there were many dead and missing, and very large tidal waves reached 20 meters. In Peru, at least two people drowned in the rising waters following the explosion.
According to NASA, the plume of smoke rising from the volcano reached the atmosphere, reaching an amazing height of 58 km and visible from space. Here on Earth, nearly every system — including some smartphone accelerometers — has captured the disturbances from a volcanic eruption.
Wright and his team used satellite data and ground-based observations to confirm the speed of the shock waves through the Earth. According to the team, the Tonga eruption rivaled that of Indonesia’s Krakatoa in 1803. The 19th century volcano produced waves fast enough to circle the Earth four times, while the Tonga event lasted three rounds.
“The volcanic eruption was an amazing natural experience,” Wright said. “The data that we have been able to collect on this will help us improve our understanding of the atmosphere and allow us to improve our climate and weather models.”
The entire research was published and reviewed in the scientific journal
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