Suara.com – The extent of the damage caused by the volcano in Tonga is not known with certainty, but the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano led to tsunami warnings being issued to a number of countries, including on the east coast of Australia.
This is what we know about volcanic eruptions and why they happen.
What is Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai?
Technically, a volcano that erupts at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is categorized as an underwater volcano, explains Professor Emeritus Richard Arculus of the Australian National University.
But as Professor Arculus points out, also as you can see from the image below, the volcanic crater is above the water.
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This crater is located between two mainland, namely Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai.
The NASA space agency said the two landmasses were “young” and formed by the explosion.
Has it ever erupted before?
The answer is yes and Professor Arculus said the volcano was “quite active in the last 15 years”.
The eruption in 2015 was also in the news, because the ash cloud from the explosion caused a number of airlines to cancel flights in and out of Tonga.
At the time, Peter Lechner, a New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority meteorologist, told Radio New Zealand that the volcano was spewing volcanic ash more than 9,000 meters into the air.
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Professor Arculus also said the volcano had erupted in 2009, 1988, 1937 and 1912.
So what happened this time?
Professor Arculus described it as “a huge explosion resembling a vent.”
Footage from satellite shows the explosion at sea level spreading and drifting away.
Professor Arculus said the ash cloud, seen from space, was the result of the interaction of water and hot fragmented matter.
How strong was this eruption?
In comparison, Professor Arculus said it was many times stronger than the mountain explosion on White Island.
The White Island volcano erupted in December 2019 and killed 22 tourists visiting the island, including 17 Australians.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said there were no official reports of deaths or injuries from the volcanic eruption in Tonga, due to limited communication.
But after the volcanic eruption occurred, the island nation of Tonga was hit by a tsunami as high as one meter. Witnesses said the eruption also shook for several minutes.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has issued a marine warning in the Australian state of New South Wales, as well as Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.
In Chile, the National Emergency Office ordered the evacuation of several coastal areas due to a small-scale tsunami.
Claudio Aldea, Deputy Director of Operations for the National Emergency Office in Chile, has asked people in the Coquimbo and Los Rios regions to evacuate to a safe zone, at least 30 meters above sea level.
A tsunami warning was also issued for New Zealand, Japan, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific coast of the United States.
What will happen next?
Grace Legge, Senior Meteorologist for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology warned the situation would remain dangerous and change.
Underwater eruptions are much more difficult to predict than atmospheric weather patterns or earthquakes, he said.
Professor Arculus said volcanic activity could continue for weeks or months, but it was difficult to predict when another powerful explosion would occur again.
“It’s probably not over yet,” he said.
Professor Arculus said pumice, which is a light volcanic rock, would reach Australia’s east coast in the next few months.
The rock floats, crumbles easily, is gray in color and full of holes.
Produced by Erwin Renaldi from reports in English
ABC / Wires