Major Blast in Tonga Create Tsunami and Heavy Ash Fall

The eruption column from Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai was photographed on January 14, 2022. Credit: JMA.

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The first volcanic eruption in the island nation of Tonga occurred today. Over the past few weeks, the small volcanic island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai had been experiencing small but impressive explosions. The eruption became more violent on January 14-15, sending ash over 60,000 feet into the sky. The blast caused a wave to hit the country, destroying homes and buildings.

The eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai was captured in an animation. The credit was made by the man.

The explosion.

The blast was caught by a satellite. In this animated Gif, you can see the explosion begin and the shock from the blast travel hundreds of miles away from the volcano. As far away as Alaska, the shockwave was recorded in air pressure. The surge at the front of the cloud is very fast. This appears to be the largest eruption in the history of the volcano.

The eruption was caught by a weather satellite. You can see the initial upward thrust followed by the spreading of the cloud as it hit neutral buoyancy in the atmosphere. There was a lot of volcanic lightning.

There was a satellite loop of the eruption. The credit is given to the NOAA/RAMMB.

A volcanic earthquake.

The eruption caused a wave in the ocean, but it is not clear what caused it. There are a number of ways in which volcanoes can cause earthquakes, including a collapse of an island, a massive submarine slide or the force of the explosion itself. Any of these could be the case.

People are trying to escape the waves that were over 4 feet when they hit the islands. Most of the waves likely hit within minutes of the explosion. The islands that were hit by the waves are 3,100 miles away, so the waves were felt as far away as Hawai'i. The west coast of the United States is under a tsunami advisory, and early indications show flooding in coastal regions of California.

The explosion was so loud that it could be heard 500 miles away in Fiji. The grey ash fell on the islands. The video showed a dark grey cloud that turned into a night sky as the ash fell. No casualties have been reported so far from this eruption and the subsequent earthquake in the island nation of Tonga. It is not known what triggered the huge blast from Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai or if more blasts of this magnitude will follow.