Massive Volcanic Eruption and Tsunami in Tonga Felt Throughout the Pacific 


Sumedha Golla

What is going on in Tonga?


Recently, an underwater volcano near Tonga, a pacific island has erupted followed by a tsunami. Erupting for the third time in four days, on Saturday it marked the biggest recorded eruption in more than 30 years. Shocking images of thick ash, gas, and steam extending up to 12.4 miles into the atmosphere were captured by satellites. Tsunami waves were felt all the way to the U.S. West Coast, Peru, New Zealand, and Japan. Although no mass casualties were reported, a couple of people in Peru lost their lives due to the harsh waves. Additionally, communication with Tonga has been down so the damage and casualties have been unknown.  New Zealand, Australia, Red Cross, Taiwan and, China stepped in and is sending help and support. 

Where are Tonga and its volcano located?


Tonga is a Polynesian country, consisting of over 170 pacific islands and is home to approximately 100,000 people. It’s 800 km east of Fiji and about 2,000 km from New Zealand. Tonga’s volcano also referred to as the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano is located underwater sitting right between two small islands. The volcano stretches about 30 kilometers southeast of Tonga’s Fonuafo’ou island. Due to the distance, the public is stunned how the tsunami waves were felt over 8,000 km throughout the Pacific. 


How will this affect the global climate?


Experts say that the flip side of all this is that the volcanic eruption and tsunami won’t be doing much damage to the global climate. Saturday’s eruption released a total of 0.4 teragrams (400 million kilograms) of sulfur dioxide, or SO2 into the atmosphere which experts claim is under the measure of significantly damaging the global climate. Compared to Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991, it released about 15 to 20 teragrams of SO2 into the atmosphere and it caused a 0.6 degrees Celsius drop in global temperature for 15 months. Ash is not the only factor affecting the global climate. Many believe in the misconception that if there is a significant amount of ash from an eruption, it’ll block sunlight and hurt global temperatures. Although that is true, there also needs to be a large sum of SO2 which wasn’t there for Tonga’s eruption. As long as the volcanic eruptions don’t keep adding on or create multiple explosions, nothing too major like the global temperatures will be affected.