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Current Affairs

Volcanic eruptions in Tonga

Date: 18 January 2022 Tags: Disaster & Disaster Management


An eruption of underwater volcano in the Kingdom of Tonga has sent shockwaves and threatened Tsunami warnings.



The volcano is present near two uninhabited islands known as Hunga-Ha’apai and Hunga-Tonga. It is around 1800m high and 20 kilometres wide.



  • The volcano has erupted regularly in the past decade.  Hot jets of magma and steam exploded during previous instances in 2009 and 2014-15.

  • The eruption was one of the massive explosions the volcano is capable of producing roughly every thousand years.


Explosive nature of volcano

  • Steam layers are quickly disrupted when hot magma enters water rapidly, bringing hot magma in direct contact with cold water.

  • This phenomenon is known as ‘fuel-coolant interaction’ and it is similar to weapons-grade chemical explosions. 

  • The chain reaction tear apart magma and new hot layers are exposed to water. The resulting explosion is continuous and ejects volcanic particles.


Previous studies

  • Scientists have conducted study during previous eruptions and discovered a caldera below water surface.

  • The studies of magma system showed that a big event was scheduled soon. They performed radioactive carbon dating to assume that a larger event could occur every 1000 years.



  • The Tonga volcanic eruption produced a Tsunami throughout Tonga and neighboring Fiji and Samoa.

  • Shockwaves were recorded in New Zealand and the volcanic cloud was seen from space. The view of island is completely blocked.


Way ahead

  • The major eruption may have released magma pressure built up below the surface. It may take weeks before the system settles.

  • The previous records have shown that events occurring once in 1000 years involves multiple eruption episodes, which could be seen in the case of Hunga-Ha’apai and Hunga-Tonga.