New Eruption in Tonga


Image from keizo/weblog

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai (how's that for a name?), a shallow seamount in Tonga, appears to have erupted. An air passenger snapped some pictures of an eruption occurring in the ocean between the Tongatapu and Vava'u and pilots in the area report that (unsurprisingly), the feature is new.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai - at least the part above water (look in the bottom of the image, the islands are marked in green) - is made of two small islands that cap the main seamount and ring the volcano's caldera. The last known eruption from the volcano was in 1988 - over twenty years ago - so this is exciting to see a new event. However, the 1988 eruption was apparently quite small (VEI 0), so the last major eruption might have been as far back as 1937 (VEI 2). Beyond that, not much is know about this volcano in the Tongan arc.

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On Monday, airline passengers were the first to observe the eruption of the just-barely-above-the-water volcano that forms the islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai, in Tonga. Three days later, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake occurred on the Tonga trench. Was the timing of these two events just…
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Names may get funny, if you stick two or more of them together. Ha'apai is the nearest island group, and tonga is the Polynesian word for 'south'. Together the islands could be called simply Hunga, because they are fragments of the same caldera.

The volcanoes of the Arc are rumbling all the time. Blobs of Pacific plate keep on melting their way through the Australian plate. You just won't see them that often, because most events happen at the bottom of the sea.

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 17 Mar 2009 #permalink

Quoting Groucho Marx in "Animal Crackers" -

"You've left out a Hunga-Tonga."

Well, _almost_ quoting him.