What is Tonga Eruption: Will the Tonga volcano cool the Earth?

What is Tonga eruption

What is Tonga Eruption?  The volcano eruption that took place in Tonga earlier this month was just 11 hours long, but it took scientists who witnessed it happening with their own eyes years to figure out what exactly caused the cataclysmic explosion.

The story gained some prominence again after a team of geologists traveled to the disaster zone to perform a detailed geological survey and collect samples by hand.

Hunga Tonga had basically been dormant for the last few centuries. There were no volcanic eruptions in the area of Hunga Tonga for nearly 200 years. But this particular volcano had been showing signs that it was ready to come back alive.

So when scientists spotted clouds of ash floating up from the bottom of the ocean, they knew that Hunga Tonga might reignite at any moment.

The power of the blast captured by a range of sophisticated Earth-observing satellites is extraordinary, challenging ideas about the physics of eruptions. Yet it’s hard to explain (What is Tonga Eruption) how an eruption could send a cloud to such heights, while emitting less ash than would be expected for an eruption of that magnitude.

Perhaps more surprisingly are the waves rippling through the atmosphere and oceans are unlike anything seen in recent years thanks to our robust fleet of satellites orbiting Earth.

Where is Tonga?

Tonga is made up of about 170 islands, many uninhabited, about 2,000 miles (3,300km) east of Australia. The volcano, Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, sits 40 miles north of the capital, Nukuʻalofa.

Why was the eruption so violent?

The exact reasons behind this eruption are still being assessed by experts. Some believe that the speed at which the molten magma was blasted out of Mount Vesuvius may have played a big part. When magma filled with volcanic gas is forced through sea water at high speed (What is Tonga Eruption), there is no time for a layer of steam to cool it.

Violence of eruption explained

Scientists say this “fuel-coolant interaction” causes a massive chemical explosion via increased contact between water and gas bubbles. In this way, even though sea water gets into the volcano’s cone, deeper layers of water would most likely have diluted its effects.

The situation on the ground now?

Tongan communications has been severely disrupted, and it is therefore impossible to assess the scale of the destruction. The government of Tonga has issued the first update since the eruption and said (What is Tonga Eruption) on Tuesday that this country was hit by a “precedented disaster”. Some of the smaller islands have been particularly badly affected: there were just two houses left on one island, for example.

The port facilities on Tonga after eruption

Aid efforts were hampered by ash falling from the volcano. The Tongan government announced that although internet was down, some phone services were available and told people to be patient while they worked to restore full communications.

The port facilities on Tonga after eruption

The port facilities on Tonga after eruption

Unusually energetic eruption on the Tonga

An unusually energetic eruption on the Tonga Islands in the South Pacific was detected by scientists this month, who describe it as a “singing” eruption as it sent pressure waves circling the planet several times.

energetic eruption on the Tonga

The low-frequency atmospheric pressure waves, called Lamb waves, detected after the eruption circled the planet in one direction four times and in the opposite direction three times, geophysicists with the Science research organization revealed.

The study found (What is Tonga Eruption) that the eruption produced audible sound which was detected more than 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) from the eruption in Alaska. It was heard as a series of booms.

This is longer than the Krakatoa explosion that was heard 4,800 kilometers (2,980 miles) away. The study collected more reports of this recent event compared to the Krakatoa explosion from near Puerto Rico.

Space disturbance

According to the study published on Tuesday in Geophysical Research Letters, Tonga’s volcano affected the atmosphere and caused high winds, hurricanes and tornadoes.

Space disturbance

The NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission and European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites provide critical data for understanding how volcanoes affect Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Contrary to previous suggestion (What is Tonga Eruption) that seismic waves from earthquakes are the primary driver of atmospheric disturbances, it is now known that large volcanic eruptions can create more severe disturbances than small ones.

These disturbances move at about 100 kilometers per hour and result in high winds, hurricanes and even tornadoes.

How much a volcanic eruption cools down climate

Volcanic eruptions are the result of a large amount of stored energy. This stored energy may be due to the foundation for a long time in the earth’s mantle, or it may have formed as the result of previous volcanic eruptions.

This excessive pressure reduces its ability to act as a container and releases it in the form of an explosive eruption, with some sort of gas like a violent blast above ground. Sulfur dioxide is one such example. The eruption will spread sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere within clouds which produces numerous aerosol particles that reflect radiation while entering Earth.

As a result, less heat is absorbed and the air temperature decreases. For example, Mount Pinatubo’s explosive eruption caused cooling on Earth by 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit for two years after 1991.

A new analysis looked in detail at the location of the volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere and how they are distributed around volcanoes. It also considered their effects on concentrations.

“Volcanic eruptions in the southern hemisphere are basically confined to a smaller geographic area.” – Tianjun Zhou, of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “As such, fewer aerosols escape into (What is Tonga Eruption) highly-trafficked air currents above the equator, leading to less of an impact on both hemispheres. This ultimately results in a weaker cooling effect overall.”

Active volcanoes and eruptions in Tonga

Volcano Elevation Status Last eruption
Fonualei 129 m Active
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai 114 m Active 01/15/2022
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai 114 m Active 01/15/2022
Leith Island 518 m Active
Niuafo’ou 260 m Active
Tofua Island 506 m Active

What was the Tonga eruption’s impact?

Tonga’s government described the damage in a recent statement as the result of an “unprecedented event.” Apparently, a giant mushroom cloud emerged and rose dozens of miles into the stratosphere. Its 53 foot high waves blanketed the land.

About 40 miles outside of the volcano on Mango Island, homes were reported to have been destroyed. The report continued by noting that further destruction had been reported (What is Tonga Eruption) on the main island of Tongatapu.

How does a volcano create tsunami waves?

The waves from a tsunami can be triggered by an underwater landslide after a volcanic eruption, which contributed to the magnitude of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in 12 countries. Volcanic eruptions usually don’t trigger tsunamis because they typically occur during what’s called “cold seeps” in which lava pushes below ground instead of through it to open sea.

How many underwater volcanoes are there in the world?

It is known that there are a total of 1,000,000 volcanoes submerged under the ocean. Most of them are extinct and rise above sea level to measure less than 10,000 feet high. There are however between 75,000 and 79,999 of them that can rise more than 1 kilometer in height above the seabed. Out of these 75,000 to 79,999 volcanoes rising over the ocean floor only 119 of them have been documented as erupting during the last 11,700 years.

Final Thoughts

And unfortunately for the beautiful island of Tonga, there is more trouble to come in their surroundings. The last big eruption took place several thousand years ago, but until now it has left many traces and records.

Scientists can know how these volcanic eruptions happened and understand how they were when they happened in order to predict anything like this erupting again sometime soon.

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