Natural Disasters

Tonga volcano wave was 9 times taller than Japan tsunami: Experts

It was nine times higher than the tsunami recorded near Japan in 2011, which caused massive destruction as it happened closer to land

By Arya Rohini
Published: Tuesday 23 August 2022

The initial tsunami wave created by Tonga’s underwater Hunga Tonga volcano eruption in January 2022 was 90 metres high, according to a new research.

It was nine times higher than the tsunami recorded near Japan in 2011, which caused massive destruction as it happened closer to land, the study published by University of Bath August 19, 2022, further added.

Detection and monitoring systems for volcano-based tsunamis are “30 years behind” similar tools used to detect earthquake-based events, the researchers noted.

Also read: Tonga volcano spews enough water to fill 58,000 pools into stratosphere, likely to add to global warming

“What is important is to have efficient warning systems, which include both real-time warnings and education on what to do in a case of a tsunami or warning — such systems save lives,” said co-author, Jadranka Sepic.

Monitoring of volcanic activity should be organised. More high-quality research into volcanic eruptions is always a good idea, he added.

The eruption should serve as a wake-up call for organisations working to safeguard people from such disasters in the future, the researchers noted.

Mohammad Heidarzadeh, a senior lecturer in the University of Bath’s architecture and civil engineering department, authored the research alongside colleagues based in Japan, New Zealand, the UK and Croatia.

“The Tongan tsunami tragically killed five people and caused large-scale destruction, but its effects could have been even greater had the volcano been closer to human communities, said Heidarzadeh, in a statement published on the University’s official website.

The volcano is located approximately 70 km from the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa — this distance significantly minimised its destructive power, he added.

Tonga volcano eruption unleashed more energy than the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated, noted another study.

The volcanic cloud contained roughly 0.4 teragrams (1 teragram equals a trillion grams) of sulfur dioxide (SO2). This means it is unlikely to have a significant cooling effect on temperatures globally.

Along with SO2, the eruption also released nitrogen oxide — two gases that create acid rain when interacting with water and oxygen in the atmosphere.

The violent underwater eruption injected 146 teragrams of water vapour into the stratosphere, which is likely to heat the atmosphere temporarily, noted another study published in Geophysical Letters July 1, 2022.

The stratosphere is the layer of atmosphere between 10-50 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.

The water vapour, a greenhouse gas released by the volcano, is roughly 10 per cent of the water already present in the stratosphere, it further added.

The massive volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga caused catastrophic damage, with homes destroyed and many communities covered in thick ash.

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