The January volcanic eruption near the Pacific island of Tonga has been confirmed as the biggest eruption ever recorded by modern instruments. Its explosion also surpassed any atomic bomb tests conducted after World War II.

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The assessment came in a pair of scientific papers published in the journal Science. According to the researchers behind the papers, only the Krakatoa eruption of 1883 comes close to the Tonga explosion, caused by the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai. The Krakatoa event is one of the most catastrophic events recorded in recent history, claiming more than 30,000 lives. Although the Tonga explosion was the biggest explosion in recent history, it did not lead to such casualties.

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“Tonga was a truly global event, just as Krakatoa was, but we’ve now got all these geophysical observation systems and they recorded something that was really unprecedented in the modern data,” Dr. Robin Matoza, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, told BBC News. 

Matoza, who is the lead author of one of the papers, explains that the occurrence of the Tonga explosion caused huge tsunamis, but did not cause serious casualties due to energy distribution. Some of the energy from the explosion was contained in ocean waves.

Thanks to advanced technology, the detection and measurement of volcanic explosions have become much easier. Today, scientists have access to plenty of advanced instruments used in monitoring such events. They also use a fleet of satellites that monitor the earth. The tools available can track atmospheric pressure, seismic force, and even hydrophones.

The Tonga explosion only came at the end of weeks of monitoring where several types of atmospheric pressure and sea waves had been detected. The explosion was anticipated, with its warnings reaching distances as far as 10,000 km from the point of eruption.

The Tonga explosion produced an atmospheric pressure wave only comparable to the Tsar bomb detonated by the Soviets in 1961. However, the size of the explosion was bigger and the pressure lasted four times longer. 

Via USA Today, BBC News

Lead image via Pexels



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