A powerful volcanic eruption has obliterated a small, uninhabited South Pacific island known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai. Damage assessments are still ongoing, but preliminary reports indicate that some communities in the island nation of Tonga have been severely damaged by volcanic ash and significant tsunami waves.
“The umbrella cloud was about 500 kilometers (300 miles) in diameter at its maximum extent,” said Michigan Tech volcanologist Simon Carn. “That is comparable to Pinatubo and one of the largest of the satellite era. However, the involvement of water in the Tonga eruption may have increased the explosivity compared to a purely magmatic eruption like Pinatubo.”