Scientists say the eruption of Tonga’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano was the largest explosion documented by researchers since 1883.
- An article published in Science revealed that the Tonga volcanic eruption was comparable to the Krakatoa eruption
- The Tonga explosion generated Lamb waves that traveled horizontally along the Earth’s surface for days
- It also produced audible sounds that could be heard up to 10,000 kilometers away.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption, which was only blamed for six deaths, was similar in size to the Krakatoa explosion in Indonesia in 1883, findings show published in Science.
The Tonga explosion generated pressure waves, called Lamb waves, which traveled horizontally along the Earth’s surface for more than six days, according to the article.
These Lamb waves are usually associated with large atmospheric explosions, such as other volcanic eruptions and nuclear tests.
The Tonga volcanic eruption produced lamb waves similar to those of the Krakatoa eruption which killed more than 30,000 people.
Scientists said nuclear explosions that also created Lamb waves – such as the largest nuclear test in the USSR in 1961 – were similar in magnitude but shorter in duration than large volcanic explosions like the one in Tonga.
This is because volcanic explosions are much more complicated and not as sharp as nuclear explosions.
The January eruption also produced audible sounds that could be heard up to 10,000 kilometers away in Alaska and generated infrasound – sounds that cannot be heard by humans – that echoed around the world.
Professor Corentin Caudron – co-author of the paper – told the ABC that the researchers used more than 3,000 sensors and instruments around the world, commonly used to detect earthquakes and tsunamis, to arrive at their conclusions.
“What we’ve done, basically, is compare what we’ve extracted, in terms of information, on all of these waves that have propagated around the globe, [and] compare this eruption with others that have happened in the past,” Professor Caudron said.
He said that while the instruments used in 1883 had lower resolution than those used now, they detected the same thing.
“This is probably one of the first times that we can see a Lamb wave associated with a volcanic explosion, and Krakatoa has also done the same… this is the first time that we can see these Lamb waves in a way very detailed.”
Heather Handley, volcanologist and adjunct associate professor at the University of Melbourne, said the paper confirmed what was observed after the eruption.
Dr Handley said the explosion in Tonga highlighted the need for the international community to work together to prepare for a potentially worse volcanic eruption.
“[Another eruption] what will happen. The world will have to be ready to work globally, together, to make sure that when this…size of an eruption happens, we are ready and better prepared, because it could affect the global food supply, chains networking, communication systems,” Dr. Handley said. mentioned.
Fallout from Tonga eruption and tsunami continues
The January 15 explosion triggered a tsunami that destroyed large parts of Tonga and covered the kingdom with volcanic ash.
The Pacific island nation was isolated from the rest of the world for more than a month when the eruption and tsunami cut the only undersea internet cable in the countrypreventing people abroad from contacting family and friends in Tonga.
Tsunami waves were seen across the Pacific and are believed to have damaged boats moored in New Zealand and caused an oil spill in Peru which was declared an environmental emergency.
The World Bank has estimated that the damage bill from the disaster will cost Tonga more than $125 million, or around 20% of its GDP.
Around 600 buildings across Tonga were damaged or destroyed by the tsunami – half of those homes – and around 1,525 people were displaced.
The tsunami caused the most havoc in the country’s tourism sector as it damaged resorts and natural attractions, while the agricultural sector was heavily affected by volcanic ash.
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