Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pacific News Minute: 1 year anniversary of Tongan eruption, the highest plume recorded

Tonga Volcano
HO/AP
/
New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
In this photo provided by New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupts near Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean on Jan. 14, 2015. The volcano shot millions of tons of water vapor high up into the atmosphere according to a study published Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in the journal Science.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano erupted underwater a little over a year ago.

It was the highest recorded volcanic plume and reached the mesosphere, the third layer of the atmosphere, and was about 31 to 50 miles above Earth's surface.

That's where meteors usually break apart and burn up in our atmosphere.

The volcanic plume reached an altitude of just over 35 miles at its highest point, according to a study done on the findings in Nov. 2022 by the Science journal.

The study said that it exceeded the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines, which reached about 25 miles.

Six people died as a result of the eruption in Tonga. The damage was relatively low due to its remote location. However, the volcano did destroy a small uninhabited island.

The eruption also triggered a tsunami, as well as shock waves that rippled around the world.

Scientists used images captured by satellites passing over the eruption site to confirm the plume's height.

They're still researching why the eruption was so powerful, but scientists are saying that it might be because it occurred underwater.

They also want to understand why the plume was so high, as well as its composition and ongoing impact on the global climate.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
Related Stories