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Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupts 17 March 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, eruptions, Pacific, submarine volcanism, Tonga.
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And what, precisely (you ask), is Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai? It is, or rather, they are, two islands that cap a large seamount in the Tonga Islands. Passengers and crew on a flight over the area witnessed a fresh eruption there yesterday, the first since 1988.

Blog post and pictures can be found here, and Eruptions has all the facts and background here.

Hunga venting on Thursday 18 March viewed from Kanokupolu Beach (photograph by Shane Egan, copyright Matangitonga.to).
Above: Plume from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption viewed from Kanokupolu Beach, Nuku’alofa, 18 March 2009. Photograph by Shane Egan, copyright Matangi Tonga, used with permission. [source]

UPDATE, 18 March 2009. Various news sources have picked up the story and are listed below. Among the details reported are a possible connection to a magnitude 4.4 earthquake last Friday, 35km W of Tongan capital Nuku’alofa. In Tonga itself, Matangi Tonga has a detailed story with pictures of the eruption plume taken from Nuku’alofa. Stuff.co.nz reports that New Zealand air traffic is being disrupted by the eruption, and quotes an Airways New Zealand spokeswoman as saying that the volcano’s eruption column is reaching 15000 metres altitude. Wellington VAAC, however, currently reports ash at flight level 150, which is 15000 feet (4500 metres). The highest altitude they have reported the emissions reaching is flight level 250, 25000 feet, which is 7600 metres.

Click here for a satellite image of the eruption (MODIS/NASA Aqua).

The Hunga's volcanic eruption as seen from the Nuku'alofa waterfront (photograph by Pesi Fonua, copyright Matangitonga.to).
Above: Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai plume photographed from Nuku’alofa waterfront, 18 March 2009. Photograph by Pesi Fonua, copyright Matangi Tonga, used with permission. [source]

The plume from an underwater volcanic eruption goes up thousands of metres. Photo from Kanokupolu Beach by Shane Egan (copyright Matangitonga.to).
Above: Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai plume photographed from Kanokupolu Beach, Nuku’alofa, 18 March 2009. Photograph by Shane Egan, copyright Matangi Tonga, used with permission. [source]

Images from Matangi Tonga are reproduced here with the kind permission of Pesi Fonua, Publisher/Editor. The Volcanism Blog is very grateful for permission to use these images.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai – summary information about Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai (0403-04=)
Tonga volcanoes and volcanics – overview from the USGS

News
Undersea volcano erupts off Tongan coast – Associated Press, 18 March 2009
Undersea volcano erupts off Tonga – ABC News, 18 March 2009
Underwater eruption close to Nuku’alofa – Matangi Tonga, 18 March 2009
Underwater volcano erupts near Tongan capital – ABC Radio Australia News, 18 March 2009
Deep sea volcano erupts off coast – 9 News, 18 March 2009
Volcanic eruption disrupts NZ flights – Stuff.co.nz, 19 March 2009

The Volcanism Blog

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Comments

1. Dr Malcolm Buck - 18 March 2009

Excelent Photos. Look forward to seeing the pumice rafts.
Regards
Malcolm

2. Tonga Eruption Video and Photos | The Geology News Blog - 31 March 2009

[...] I’m the last person in the geoblogosphere to have seen the video and photos of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption. Incredible [...]


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