Tonga Volcano Eruption: Satellites Capture Huge Plume Of Smoke, Sonic Booms Heard Across New Zealand

The US Stormwatch shared a tweet where a satellite captured the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption (Image: US Stormwatch/Twitter)

Tongan news agencies and weather agencies which monitor volcanic activity witnessed activity in the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano since Jan 3

  • Last Updated:January 15, 2022, 13:26 IST

A major eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which sent plumes of smoke high enough to be visible from geostationary satellites. A widely circulated tweet from US Stormwatch showed plumes of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano exploding skywards soon after the explosion.

A tsunami warning was issued for American Samoa soon after the explosion. There were no tsunami warnings for Australia and New Zealand at the time of writing this report. Several videos of large sea waves crashing onto Tonga’s beaches were circulated on Twitter. News18 could not verify the authenticity of those videos.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano is roughly 70 kms away from the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa.

Shortly after the explosion, New Zealand-based weather website WeatherWatchNZ in a tweet said that the pressure released due to the explosion was huge and sonic booms could be heard across New Zealand. It shared a tweet by the MetService, which is New Zealand’s official weather forecasts and warnings site, where it said to have recorded a major pressure surge from the eruption.

“The energy release is simply astonishing. Tonga is around 2000km away from New Zealand. Reports of people hearing the sonic booms across NZ,” WeatherWatch tweeted. Observers in Fiji also posted on social media sites that explosions and sonic booms were heard from there as well.

Eruptions were already occurring at the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano according to reports from news agency Matangi Tonga and the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program.

The report by Matangi Tonga said that there were eruptions on Friday evening as well but those were not as large as the one reported a few hours ago. The report highlighted that a team of Tongan geologists on Friday saw a “5km wide column plume of ash, steam and gas rising to altitude 18-20km above sea level.”

Domestic flights to and from Tonga remained cancelled since Friday owing to the plumes and the ongoing volcanic eruption. The Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program in its page for the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano said that activity was recorded since January 3.

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