NASA estimates that the eruption in Tonga had a force of 10 megatons.
NPR reports that NASA researchers have been able to estimate the strength of the island nation of Tonga’s January 15 volcanic eruption .
“Its magnitude was the equivalent of ten megatons of TNT,” James Garvin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, tells NPR.
NPR notes that the explosive force of the eruption was as powerful as the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II.
A geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the blast, heard as far away as Alaska, was probably one of the loudest events in more than a century.
“This could be the loudest and loudest eruption since the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Krakatau in 1883, ” comments Michael Poland, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey, via NPR.
Three days after the Tonga event, the nation remains largely cut off from the world and much-needed assistance.
According to NPR, underwater communications appear to have been disrupted and the airport remains covered in ash, preventing relief flights.
The Tongan government has reported extensive damage to outlying islands as well, including Mango Island, where apparently every house has been destroyed.
The USGS said that despite its explosive force, the eruption itself was relatively small and short-lived — lasting less than 60 minutes.
According to USGS scientist Michael Poland, the question now is : how did such a relatively small eruption cause such a large explosion and subsequent tsunami?