Tonga volcano: a visual guide to the eruption and its aftermath | Tonga volcano

Surveillance flights have been despatched from Australia and New Zealand to assess injury after Tonga was remoted from the remainder of the world following a volcanic eruption. Right here’s how occasions have performed out over the previous few days.

14 January

About 4.20am native time (3.10pm GMT on 13 January), the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupts, sending plumes of ash, steam and fuel up to 20km into the environment.

The undersea volcano is positioned about 65km (40 miles) north of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, and is a part of a huge arc of volcanoes and ocean trenches often called the Pacific “Ring of Hearth”.

Ring of fire map

Although it solely rises 114 metres above sea stage, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano general is 1.8km high and 20km wide.


A public discover issued by the Tonga Geological Services notes steady eruption and a 5km-wide plume. The volcano had been lively since an earlier eruption on 20 December however was declared dormant by the authority on 11 January.

Volcanic exercise in 2014 and 2015 had joined the islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai, which had been themselves produced by older volcanic eruptions. A satellite tv for pc picture taken after the eruption reveals that the connecting volcanic cone has been largely destroyed.

Planet Labs PBC / AP

The Tonga Meteorological Services problem a tsunami warning for all islands throughout the nation, with waves of up to 30cm recorded following the eruption.

15 January – 5.10pm (4.10am GMT)

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupts once more at 5.10pm native time on Saturday 15 January.

Locator map showing Tongan volcano explosion location relative to capital of Tonga

The large eruption, bigger than the one on 14 January, generates an infinite quantity of power and creates an umbrella cloud of ash, spreading the plume concentrically outwards as an alternative of being dispersed in a single course by wind.

The preliminary peak of the ash plume is an estimated 15.2km in altitude, later rising up to 30km excessive. The plume spreads to 260km in diameter earlier than being distorted by wind.

The power of the eruption – as measured by the volcanic explosivity index – remains to be unknown, because it requires precise figures on how excessive the plume reaches and the quantity of ash ejected.

Photos from climate satellites, reminiscent of this animated video utilizing imagery from a Korean climate satellite tv for pc, present the dramatic explosion, with ash and water vapour protecting an space a whole bunch of kilometres in diameter:

Loop showing the underwater volcano explosion as captured by Korean weather satellite

15 January – 5.30pm

Twenty minutes later, at 5.30pm native time, a 1.2 metre tsunami wave is noticed at Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, in accordance to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Pictures and movies emerge on social media of enormous waves flooding coastal areas, with stories of individuals making their approach inland and to greater floor. Footage reveals waves inflicting injury to buildings and infrastructure reminiscent of seawalls.

15 January – 6.15pm

By night in the Pacific, the volcano is raining ash and “tiny pebbles” on neighbouring Tongan islands, with reports of “darkness blanketing the sky”.

Nuku’alofa is reportedly lined in a thick movie of volcanic mud. There are considerations about contamination of meals and water provides, in addition to acid rain.


As well as to stopping plane from flying, ash hampers restoration efforts as a result of it “buries gardens and impacts vegetation with penalties for meals provide, and is probably going to contaminate water provides,” volcanologist Dr Chris Firth says.

This video of satellite tv for pc photographs from the Nationwide Institute of Water and Atmospheric Analysis in New Zealand reveals the plume of ash from the eruption enveloping the most important island of Tonga, Tongatapu.

NIWA video loop

15 January – 7pm

An air stress surge from the volcano’s eruption is recorded at seismic stations internationally, together with in New Zealand, Australia, the US, and the UK, the place two shockwaves are noticed.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology reveals the shockwave travelled sooner than 1000 km/h – nearly as quick as the pace of sound – and resulted in a noticeable soar in atmospheric stress.

Sonic booms from the eruption had been heard throughout the Pacific, together with in Fiji and Vanuatu, and so far as Alaska, greater than 9,000km away.

15 January – 8.15pm

In the hours that comply with, tsunami warnings are issued throughout the Pacific, together with in New Zealand, Australia, the west coast of the US, and Japan, the place round 230,000 folks throughout eight prefectures are ordered to evacuate.

Specialists imagine the tsunami exercise may have been triggered both by shock waves propagating via water, or by a landslide on the undersea a part of the volcano.

Solely an estimated 5% of tsunamis have traditionally resulted from volcanoes, together with the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, which triggered a devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Krakatoa’s violent eruption was reported to have been heard 4,800km away.

eruption graphic

16 January

Massive waves and sturdy currents are recorded in lots of coastal areas globally.

Photos on social media present destruction of coastal houses on a number of islands in the South Pacific, whereas Japan’s Pacific coast sees waves of almost 1.2 metres. Authorities in New Zealand verify that an undersea cable linking Tonga to Fiji has been broken.


Two folks drown off a seaside in the Lambayeque area of Peru, after unusually excessive waves are recorded there. The nation closes 22 ports as a precaution.

The Californian metropolis of Santa Cruz is hit by a tidal surge, damaging boats and leading to flooding.

How the Tonga volcano has been felt around the world – video
How the Tonga volcano has been felt round the world – video

17 January – 2pm

Australia and New Zealand ship planes to Tonga to assess the injury to essential infrastructure reminiscent of roads, ports and powerlines. Surveillance flights had been delayed as a results of the ash cloud blanketing Tonga.

17 January – 3pm

A veil of ash from Saturday’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption is seen drifting west in the direction of northern Australia, at an altitude between 12-20km, New Zealand’s meteorological service reports.

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