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The largest volcanic eruption ever |  illvet.se

The largest volcanic eruption ever | illvet.se

Large rivers of viscous lava headed for a village at the foot of a spur volcano. This is what the horror scenario regarding volcanic eruptions looks like for many of us.

However, that was not the case when the Hong Tonga volcano – Hong Haapai erupted in Tonga in January.

The volcanic eruption occurred on the sea floor 65 kilometers north of the main island of Tongatapu in the group of small islands in the Pacific Ocean.

And according to Research group from New Zealand It is now clear that the volcanic eruption is the largest ever recorded using modern equipment.

Huge explosion

According to New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, more than ten cubic kilometers of sea floor were destroyed as a result of the eruption, the equivalent of 2.6 million astronomical Olympic swimming pools.

The volcanic eruption also destroyed several underwater cables, cutting off any communication between Tonga and the outside world for several weeks after the disaster.

Three-quarters of this mass was ejected up to 20 kilometers from the volcano, while the greater part of the last quarter is thought to have been ejected through the mesosphere, which lies 50-85 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

“It was like a shotgun being fired into the sky,” says marine geologist Kevin MacKay, continuing:

“This has resulted in about 1.9 cubic kilometers of material now circulating in the atmosphere for several months.”

However, it was not the lava itself and the colossal plumes of smoke that caused the most damage, but the 15-meter-high tsunami caused by the huge explosion.

One of the largest volcanic eruptions

With a five on the so-called VEI scale, which measures a volcanic eruption, the eruption off Tonga is the largest eruption in 100 years.

The activity on the seafloor caused tsunamis of up to 15 meters along the coasts of Tonga, killing at least three local residents.

Great opportunity to search

Volcanic eruptions on Earth usually produce a so-called lava cloud, which is characterized by magma raining down the sides of a volcano at speeds of up to 700 kilometers per hour and temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees.

During the eruption of the volcano in Tonga, researchers had the opportunity to observe a similar phenomenon on a really large scale – far below the surface of the water.

The fact that the eruption took place underwater may be one of the reasons researchers found broken pieces of lava and other material up to 80 kilometers from the crater.

“It’s still just speculation, but research indicates that magma’s ability to transport underwater is enhanced,” McKay notes.

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