Tonga Volcano Eruption

On Saturday, January 15th, 2022, the underwater volcano named Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai off the island of Tongatapu erupted, causing what is believed to be the largest eruption of a volcano in the last 30 years. The eruption left five dead and caused damage to surrounding areas. Tongatapu is one of 170 islands in the South Pacific Ocean that make up the country of Tonga, which is south-east from Fiji and north-east from New Zealand.

While the extent of the damage is still a bit unclear, much of the main island, as well as surrounding islands are covered in ash, causing electricity, phone, and internet services to be out entirely until January 20th, with them only being partially restored as of now. As of February 1st, 2022, there have only been five confirmed deaths, three from Tonga and two Peruvians, as well as an additional 18 injuries, with one being from Japan. Structures on other surrounding islands have been damaged as well. When it comes to long-term effects, coral reefs have been damaged, crops growth will be affected, and much of the land has been submerged underwater due to rising tides.

Although the volcano has erupted numerous times in the past, this most recent eruption led to Tsunami advisories across the west coasts of North and South America, even causing large ocean waves to reach Alaska, where the eruption was heard beforehand. Tsunami waves also made their way to Australia and New Zealand. The tsunami waves that reached the United States caused considerable damage to Santa Cruz Harbor in Santa Cruz, California, with them causing approximately $6.5 Million in damages. Damages include utility infrastructure such as electricity, as well as restroom and shower facilities.

According to NASA Scientist Jim Garvin, “This is a preliminary estimate, but we think the amount of energy released by the eruption was equivalent to somewhere between 4 to 18 megatons of TNT.” NASA also said the bomb was “The blast released hundreds of times the equivalent mechanical energy of the Hiroshima nuclear explosion.”