A satellite image taken by a Japanese weather satellite shows the eruption Saturday.(Japan Meteorology Agency via AP)

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

A massive underwater volcano erupted near Tonga on Saturday, sending shockwaves and tsunamis around the globe. The eruption, viewed from space by satellites flying over the region, was violent and enormous, with a smoke and ash plume rapidly expanding across the region. The airwaves created by the eruption are so powerful they can be clearly seen spreading out through the atmosphere on satellite imagery.

The volcano, known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, is located about 40 miles away from Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, about 3,100 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,500 miles north of New Zealand. The sound of the eruption could be heard several hundred miles away in Fiji, and the eruption immediately triggered tsunami warnings on both sides of the Pacific. 

The internet and power has been cut in Tonga so little information is available on damage, but initial video showed a tsunami as big as four feet flooding onto the island.

Tsunami waves did come ashore on the United States’ West Coast on Sunday morning, although they were relatively minor. 

Scientists in New Zealand who have studied the volcano say that the type of ash and magma coming from the eruption is less toxic than other kinds, but predicted that the main Tongan island will likely be completely covered in a coating of ash. Some news reports described residents of the island having breathing problems. 

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate