(ORDO NEWS) — A volcanic eruption in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga peaked on Jan. 15 with more explosive force than the 100 bombs dropped on Hiroshima, NASA scientists said on Monday, Jan. 24.
Using a combination of satellite and ground-based imagery, the researchers calculated the explosive power of the volcano based on the amount of volcano height, eruptive cloud, and a number of other factors.
“This is a preliminary estimate, but we think the amount of energy released by the eruption was equivalent to somewhere between 4 and 18 megatons of TNT,” said Jim Garvin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, on the NASA Earth blog. observatory. (One megaton is equivalent to 1 million tons of TNT).
This makes the Tonga eruption potentially hundreds of times more explosive than the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in August 1945, which is estimated to have exploded with an energy of 15 kilotons (15,000 tons).
It also makes Tonga the most powerful volcanic eruption seen on Earth in more than 30 years since Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991.
New class of eruptions.
Volcano Tonga erupted on January 15, weeks after a series of smaller eruptions in late December 2021 that rocked the uninhabited island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai.
Garvin and his colleagues have been observing the Tonga volcano since 2015, when magma from the volcano pushed new land above the surface of the water, connecting the islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai.
Volcanoes like this one should expect frequent eruptions, Garvin said, where liquid water and hot magma often come into contact, producing violent bursts of steam.
However, the explosive eruption on January 15, which sent a column of steam up halfway into space, was much more violent than a typical eruption, Garvin said. This may be due to the unusually high amount of water involved.
As devastating as the eruption is, it is just a glimpse of what Earth’s most powerful volcanoes are capable of. For example, researchers estimate that the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 released 24 megatons of energy, while the Krakatoa eruption in 1883 released 200 megatons of energy, according to NASA.
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