August 17, 2022

Tonga’s Incredible Underwater Volcano Eruption Seen From Space

Tonga’s Incredible Underwater Volcano Eruption Seen From Space
Tonga’s Incredible Underwater Volcano Eruption Seen From SpaceTonga’s Incredible Underwater Volcano Eruption Seen From Space

An undersea volcano erupted near the Pacific island of Tonga, and several satellites caught the incredible explosion in action. The blast of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano created a  plume of ash, steam and gas mushrooming above the Pacific Ocean, with a quickly expanding shockwave visible from orbit. Japan’s Himawari-8 weather satellite recorded this dramatic video:

Each frame in this video is about 10 minutes long, so the plume expanded quickly. Some experts estimated the shockwave expanded at an amazing 800 – 950 kph (500-600 mph.)

NASA’s GOES-17 satellite also captured this view:

The Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano is located about 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa. In late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island.

And now, follow-up images of today’s eruption appear to show the small volcanic island was basically blown in two. The volcano has been rumbling and spewing small amounts of ash since late in December 2021, but today’s eruption was one of the largest ever for this volcano. This was the sixth time this volcano has erupted in the last 110 years.  

On Tonga, home to about 105,000 people, videos posted to social media showed swirling, fast moving clouds of ash. This video from Fiji, about 470 miles away has an incredibly large sonic boom heard from the shockwave. Reports of sonic booms were reported as far away as New Zealand, Alaska and Canada. Tsunami advisories were issued for nearby Tonga, as well as for Japan, Hawaii, Alaska and the U.S. Pacific coast, but the warnings were later canceled.

Volcanic experts will certainly be following up on this eye-popping explosion.