May 14, 2022 7:40 pm

Volcano explosion in Tonga released 10 megatons of energy

Enzo Campetella Meteor Argentina 6 min
The tsunami that followed the eruption and the falling ash brought great destruction to the kingdom of Tonga.

A week after the extreme eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in Tonga, eastern New Zealand, NASA researchers already have an estimate of the power deployed, as indicated NPR. “We have reached a figure that is around 10 megatons of TNT equivalent,” James Garvin, chief scientist of the Goddard Space Flight Center which belongs to NASA.

The data is really incredible. This value means that the explosive force was more than 500 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima., Japan, at the end of World War II. The explosion could be heard in places very far from the epicenter of the eruption, as was the case in Alaska. This eruption was probably one of the strongest events that have occurred on Earth in more than a century, according to Michael Poland, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

“This could be the loudest eruption since Krakatoa (Indonesia) in 1883,” says Poland.. That massive 19th-century eruption killed thousands and released so much ash that it plunged much of the region into darkness. In the case of this latest event, Garvin says he thinks the worst may be over, at least for now.

Tonga was isolated

Volcanologists point out that if the precedent of other volcanic eruptions in this type of scenario is being repeated, then a similar explosion should not be repeated for a while. Anyway, these are conclusions based on the evidence, but the last word will have the planet itself.

LNew Zealand government reconnaissance flights showed that ash had covered houses and many other structures in Tonga. The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that a tsunami had inundated the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, causing extensive damage. On Mango Island all the houses have been destroyed. Access to drinking water seems to be one of the main problems. The isolated position of the country makes its dependence on external inputs very high, so there is a lot of uncertainty about how its population is coping with the situation.

Not expected to affect the weather in the short term

This underwater volcano has been in the sights of researchers since it produced a major eruption in the middle of the decade. The islands that make up Tonga are in a subduction zone where one part of the earth’s crust sinks under another. In late 2014 and early 2015, on the edge of this caldera, volcanic activity built a platform that rose out of the sea, creating a new island.. Layers of steam and ash eventually connected the island, known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, with two much older islands on either side.

We now know that this Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai island was completely destroyed by the explosion on Saturday, and it was so massive that it even appears to have scooped out chunks of nearby older islands. It wasn’t just ash that was flying, but also solid rock in pieces.

Garvin argued that “the formation of the island probably also favored its destruction. As it rose from the sea, layers of liquid magma filled a network of chambers below it.” He now suspects that the explosion was triggered by a sudden change in underground pipes, causing seawater to enter. More than a ton of cold water came into contact with liquid rock, which accelerated the extreme explosion..

Even so, volcanologists believe that the eruption has been small compared to the most important ones., and that is reduced to a single explosive episode. Unlike the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption, which spewed ash and smoke for hours, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption lasted less than 60 minutes. The eruption is not expected to cause any short-term changes in Earth’s climate, as other large eruptions have done in the past..

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