National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce

What's New

Diagram of the stages of the volcano buildup and explosion
May 08, 2024

The extraordinarily powerful eruption of Hunga volcano in the Tongan archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean on January 15, 2022 blasted gas and ash 36 miles high, generating atmospheric gravity waves, two different types of destructive tsunamis, and the loudest atmospheric explosion recorded by modern instrumentation. It was one of the largest eruptions of the past 300 years.

Initially, scientists suggested the explosion occurred when magma reacted violently with water that had infiltrated the caldera of the submarine volcano, or perhaps by the collapse of the caldera itself.

Now a team of international scientists have proposed an alternative trigger mechanism, saying the trigger was the accumulation of mineral deposits within the volcano closing off exit pathways for gases from magma to escape, leading to the buildup and catastrophic release of pressure strong enough to generate shock waves that circled the planet. This theory is consistent with various lines of evidence.

Their findings are detailed in a paper that has been accepted for publication in the... more

PMEL in the News

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