South Seas: Volcanic eruption wipes out islands and sends pressure waves to Germany

South Seas: Volcanic eruption wipes out islands and sends pressure waves to Germany
Science South Sea

Volcanic eruption eroded islands and sent pressure waves to Germany

Underwater volcano eruption signals tsunami warning

An underwater volcanic eruption in the South Pacific prompts a tsunami warning. The resulting tidal waves hit the shores. The entire district of Tonga has been flooded.

More lightning than ever, tsunamis on Pacific coasts: The massive eruption of a volcanic island in Tonga in the South Pacific has changed the map, causing islands to disappear or shrivel. The results in Tonga are yet to be assessed.

DThe eruption of a volcano in the state of Tonga Islands in the South Pacific on Saturday could be measured all over the world. The pressure wave from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai volcano spread across the atmosphere, and weather stations in Germany also recorded the shock in their records. The blast of the outbreak can still be heard in Alaska, about 10,000 kilometers away. However, the eruption in the South Seas had a serious impact.

Media reports of “considerable damage” to the island’s shores. The islands resembled a lunar landscape covered with black volcanic ash. As of Sunday evening, German time, there were no reports of casualties in Tonga. However, at first there was hardly any news from the Tonga Islands – there the internet and electricity had failed. According to the report of the International Red Cross, thousands of residents are affected.

Comparison of three satellite images of the uninhabited South Sea islands of Tonumea, Nuku, Tau and Kelefesia.  The two images on the sides were taken before the volcanic eruption, the later image in the center.  It shows that Nuku and Tau are gone (red circles) and Tonumiya and Kelephasia partially submerged (yellow circles)

Comparison of three satellite images of the uninhabited South Sea islands of Tonumea, Nuku, Tau and Kelefesia. Two images on the sides were taken before the volcanic eruption, Billu,Later in the middle d. It shows that Nuku and Tau are gone (red circles) and Tonumiya and Klephasia partially submerged (yellow circles)

Source: Dr. Andreas Schaefer / CEDIM

At the site, the eruption resembled an apocalypse: a giant cloud of ash darkened the sky over Tonga for hours with the sound of the explosion. Hundreds of thousands of lightning flashed through the black eruption cloud, a good 15 kilometers high: Vaisala’s GLD360 network, a global sensor network, reported that so many lightning bolts had never been registered during a volcanic eruption. High-voltage flares continued to hit the ocean and islands.

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“You can compare this event to the Krakatau eruption of 1883,” says geophysicist Andreas Schfer of the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM). The 1883 eruption of Indonesia’s marine volcano was one of the most violent in history, heard thousands of miles away, and a tsunami killed thousands.

Neighboring islands have also been badly affected.

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Unlike Krakatoa, the Tonga eruption is not likely to cause a particularly cooling climate, as climate researchers have already announced. But like in Krakatoa in 1883, the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Hapai eruption apparently collapsed submarine slopes, triggering a tsunami. The waves wiped out at least two islands, Schaefer reports: the uninhabited islands of Nuku and Tau, located about 65 kilometers from Hunga Tonga-Hunga Hapai, can no longer be seen on satellite images taken after the tsunami passed .

The waves apparently completely cleared the islands, says Schaefer. Only the underlying rock is still almost visible. Some neighboring islands, which are also uninhabited, were also badly affected and lost a good part of their territory to the sea.

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“Since most of the other islands, especially the inhabited ones, are quite large and their rocky bases protrude a few meters out of the water, the changes here are much less dramatic,” Schaefer says. However, it appears that significant parts of Nomuka’s inhabited islands were washed away in the Pacific.

Coral reefs break tsunami and save other islands

Tsunamis resulting from submarine mass movements are particularly dangerous to the immediate vicinity. There, the waves can be more than ten meters high, while 50 kilometers further, hardly a tenth of the height can be expected.

The episode was also shown in Santa Cruz, California.

The episode was also shown in Santa Cruz, California.

What: AP/Samuel Thaler

The tsunami from the Tonga eruption reached the Pacific coasts of North and South America thousands of kilometers away, but did not make it inland and caused only minor damage. However, two swimmers were killed in a strong current near a Peruvian beach. The fact that tsunamis in Japan, California and South America were one and a half meters high indicates a particularly large submarine landslide on Tonga volcano, Schaefer says.

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Tonga-Volcano-Tsunami

Many of the islands would have been saved from destruction because the tsunami would have broken coral reefs and offshore barrier islands, for example in Fiji or Tongatapu. On the other hand, places lacking coastal protection, such as the port city of Port Vila on Vanuatu, would have been affected by high waves, despite their greater distance from the volcanic eruption.

Hunga Tonga – The Tonga island of Hunga Haapai itself erupted when its volcano erupted – the eruption destroyed the center of the island.

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