The American symbol that has watched over New York since 1886, the Statue of Liberty, serves as a reference to show how Tonga’s eruption would have started. It was one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions on the planet, spewing a massive amount of water vapor into the atmosphere (something they claim could temporarily warm the Earth’s surface). And it is that the eruption sent enough water vapor to fill 58,000 Olympic swimming pools, according to detections by a NASA satellite. Scientists who examined the amount of water vapor ejected by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano described it as “unprecedented”.
The water from the eruption on January 15 is equivalent to about 10 percent of the water content already present in the stratosphere , the layer of the atmosphere between about 12 and 53 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
Let’s not forget that the tremendous eruption created sound waves in a sonic boom that went around the world twice. It’s something we’ve never seen before.
The root of the explosion
Now, a new study on the eruption of the Hunga Tonga submarine volcano published in the journal Ocean Engineering concludes that the Tonga eruption could have generated a tsunami as tall as the Statue of Liberty followed by an atmospheric pressure wave that generated tsunamis especially rapids, , a rare phenomenon that can complicate early warnings of these often destructive waves, the scientists report in their paper.
According to the researchers, it is possible that the gigantic eruption began as a single but huge mound of water (the powerful steam formed when seawater in the South Pacific came into contact with lava and ‘superheated’), before exploding. like a series of tsunamis that circle the planet. This huge mound of water displaced upwards after the submarine volcano had erupted then flowed downhill, as fluids usually do, to generate the initial set of tsunamis. This rare phenomenon could complicate early warnings of these usually destructive waves, experts say.
To estimate the original size of that initial mound of water, the researchers used computer simulations as well as data from deep-sea instruments and coastal tide gauges some 1,500 kilometers from the eruption , much of it in or near New Zealand. Then, they analyzed up to nine possibilities for the initial wave, with a different height and diameter. The best fit to real-world data came from a mound of water 90 meters high and 12 kilometers in diameter, the researchers say. That initial wave would have contained an estimated 6.6 cubic kilometers of water . “It was a really big tsunami,” experts say.
The event was of such magnitude that even astronauts on the International Space Station photographed the ash thrown into the air by the huge underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga. NASA shared the images taken from the windows of the ISS cupola , which showed a layer of ash from columns thrown thousands of meters into the atmosphere.
Reference: M Heidarzadeh et al. Estimating the eruption-induced water displacement source of the 15 January 2022 Tonga volcanic tsunami from tsunami spectra and numerical modeling. Ocean Engineering. Vol. 261, October 2022. doi:10.1016/j.ocean.2022.112165.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Hydration of the Stratosphere L. Millán, ML Santee, A. Lambert, NJ Livesey, F. Werner, MJ Schwartz, HC Pumphrey, GL Manney, Y. Wang, H. Su, L. Wu , WG Read , L. Froidevaux First published: 01 July 2022 Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2022GL099381