Here's why the Tonga eruption posed a minimal tsunami threat to Hawaiʻi
The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano in southern Tonga caused tsunamis in countries touching the Pacific Ocean, from New Zealand and Japan to the U.S. West Coast.
While Hawaiʻi saw some high water, the impact was less severe despite the fact that it is geographically closer to Tonga than some of the affected areas.
Tsunamis are traditionally caused by earthquakes or volcanoes shaking the sea bed and displacing the water.
Scientists think the tsunamis generated from the eruption in Tonga were caused by the atmosphere.
"The very large sonic boom that people heard, and you can see the shock waves in the satellite images, that put energy into the atmosphere which then coupled back into the ocean somehow and caused these waves that are pretty large, pretty far away from the source of the volcano or tsunami, relative to what you see close by," said University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa earth science professor Kenneth Rubin. "Normally what you would expect is you see bigger waves close to the source, and then they get smaller as you go farther away."
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai may be a tsunami threat for Hawaiʻi in the future, but it’s no more of a hazard than several other shallow submarine volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean.
Large earthquakes from Alaska and local natural hazards are more likely to cause tsunamis in Hawaiʻi.