NASA Says Force of Tonga’s Volcano Was 500 Times Greater Than Nuclear Bomb in Hiroshima

Tonga After Volcanic Eruption

View of Tonga on January 18, 2022 after the volcanic eruption. (Photo: NZ Defence Force via Wikipedia)

Ever since the eruption of an underwater volcano near Tonga, the world has been anxious to learn more information. While little information is still known about what's happening on the ground in Tonga, researchers have been providing more facts about the epic explosion. So just how big was the eruption, which could be seen via satellite? According to NASA, it was more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

When looking to quantify things, James Garvin, the chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center told NPR that they estimate that the blast was the equivalent of 10 megatons of TNT. This not only makes it more powerful than the bomb at Hiroshima, but more than 500 times as powerful.

The blast caused tsunami warnings around the globe and two people were actually killed off the coast of Peru due to waves caused by the volcano. Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai erupted on January 15, sending off a massive amount of ash and smoke into the atmosphere. The volcano, which sits about 20 miles off the coast of Tonga's Fonuafo'ou island, stretches down 6,500 feet to the ocean floor.

Satellite Image of Volcanic Eruption in Tonga

Satellite view of the volcanic eruption near Tonga. (Image: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR)

Since the eruption, communication with Tonga has been scarce. The main communication line that links the island nation with the world sits underwater and is broken in two places. Experts estimate that it could take up to a month to repair depending on their findings once they arrive on site. Relief efforts have also been hampered by the thick layer of volcanic ash that covered the main airport's runway. Residents participated in a heroic effort to clear the ash so that both Australia and New Zealand could send in supplies. Luckily, the first relief planes were able to land on Thursday.

Many aerial photos are showing the unfortunate destruction that the volcano left in its wake. Many homes have been damaged or have simply disappeared. While few deaths have been reported, that could change as more information comes to light. Already, one story is emerging that captures the resilience of the Tongan people. Lisala Folau, a 57-year-old Tongan man, is being called “Aquaman” because he swam for 27 hours after being swept away in the waves. He was carried away from his small island of Atata and kept afloat until he reached the main island a little over a day later. Here's hoping that more heartwarming stories such as these will emerge.

h/t: [NPR]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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