Tonga Volcano Erupts


Photo Credit: Planet Labs

View of the volcano from above. This is before the eruption happened, sending smoke and ash 19 miles into the air.

Kaiya Kearns, Social Media Editor

On January 15th, 2022 the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in the South Pacific Ocean erupted. According to NASA, this eruption triggered a tsunami hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. This eruption sent shock waves, quite literally, around the world. 

The volcano in the Kingdom of Tonga is 65km north of Tonga’s capital Nuku‘alofa. It consists of two small uninhabited islands, Hunga-Ha’apai and Hunga-Tonga. The islands poke out of the ocean about 100m above sea level, but hiding below the vast expanse of blue is a massive volcano around 1800m high and 20km wide. It has erupted regularly for many decades, most recently in 2009 and 2014/2015.. These eruptions are very small in comparison, however, to the eruption in January 2022. 

The eruption has affected many people and large amounts of land. More than four-fifths of the population in Tonga has been affected by the tsunami and falling ash. One of the biggest effects this eruption caused was a tsunami that consisted of 50 foot waves. Three people have been confirmed dead from the eruption and tsunami, plus the only airport in Tonga is closed and  there has been a massive lack of communication. There is also a lack of water resources due to ash contamination. 

Many other countries have been affected by the waves and ash. 6,631 miles away in Peru, two women drowned due to the high waves, as well as an oil spill during a transfer at a refinery. People in Alaska felt the effects as well; three foot waves hit their coastlines. People heard the blast hours earlier, all the way from Juneau to the Aleutians. 

The lasting problems from this eruption calls for a long and treacherous road ahead, not just for the people but for the environment as well. People who were close to the incident are concerned, not knowing what the future holds. For now, they must wait for the help of others.