The massive eruption of the Hunga volcano created an atmospheric pulse that caused an unusual tsunami-like disturbance

The massive eruption of the Hunga volcano created an atmospheric pulse that caused an unusual tsunami-like disturbance

The massive eruption of the Hunga volcano created an atmospheric pulse that caused an unusual tsunami-like disturbance

This looping video shows a series of GOES-17 satellite images that captured an umbrella cloud created by the underwater eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano on January 15, 2022. Crescent-shaped shock waves at the bow and numerous lightning strikes can also be seen. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens using GOES images courtesy of NOAA and NESDIS

The eruption of the Hunga volcano causes a data explosion

The gigantic eruption of the South Pacific’s submarine volcano Hunga on January 15, 2022 devastated the island nation of Tonga and generated a variety of atmospheric wave types, including eruptions that could be heard 6,200 miles (10,000 km) away in Alaska. It also created an atmospheric pulse that created an unusual tsunami-like disturbance that reached the Pacific coast earlier than the actual tsunami.

These are just a few of the many observations reported by a team of 76 scientists from 17 nations studying the eruption’s atmospheric waves, the largest known from a volcano since the 1883 Krakatoa eruption of the significant scientific interest in the eruption, compiled in an unusually short amount of time, was published in the Journal on May 12, 2022 Science.

David Fee, director of the Wilson Alaska Technical Center at the University of Alaska’s Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, is a lead author of the research and one of four collaborating scientists at the center.

Hunga-Tonga eruption NASA GOES 17 satellites

The image of the Hunga eruption comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite GOES-17. Credit: NOAA

The Hunga eruption near the island of Tonga has provided unprecedented insight into the behavior of some atmospheric waves. A dense network of barometers, infrasonic sensors, and seismometers in Alaska — operated by the Geophysical Institute’s Wilson Alaska Technical Center, the Alaska Volcano Observatory, and the Alaska Earthquake Center — contributed to the data.

“We hope that by understanding the atmospheric waves from that eruption, we can better monitor volcanic eruptions and tsunamis,” said Fee, who is also the coordinating scientist at the part of the Alaska Volcano Observatory of the Geophysical Institute.

“Atmospheric waves have been recorded across a wide range of frequencies worldwide, and by examining this remarkable data set we will better understand how acoustic and atmospheric waves are produced, propagated and recorded,” he said. “This has implications for monitoring nuclear explosions, volcanoes, earthquakes and a host of other phenomena.”

Data on the volcano Hunga

The top image shows locations of instruments that provided data. The red-blue pattern around Hunga Volcano is a temporal snapshot from a weather satellite showing the atmospheric disturbance caused by the Lamb wave. The image below shows two months of Hunga activity. Photo credit: David Fee

The researchers found the behavior of the burst’s Lamb wave particularly interesting, a type named after its 1917 discoverer, English mathematician Horace Lamb.

The largest atmospheric explosions, such as B. in volcanic eruptions and nuclear tests, generate Lamb waves. They can last from minutes to several hours.

A Lamb wave is a type of guided wave that propagates parallel along the surface of a material and also extends upwards. In the Hunga eruption, the wave moved along the Earth’s surface, orbiting the planet four times in one direction and three times in the opposite direction – just like the Krakatoa eruption of 1883.

“Lamb waves are rare. We have very few high-quality observations of them,” Fee said. “By understanding the Lamb wave, we can better understand the source and eruption. It is associated with tsunami and volcanic plume formation and is also likely related to the higher frequency infrasound and sound waves from the eruption.”

Tonga Volcano Plume Stereoscopic Observations

A NASA satellite has captured the explosive eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai in the South Pacific. Image credit: Image by Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory, using GOES-17 images courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service

The Lamb wave consisted of at least two pulses near Hunga, the first showing a seven to 10 minute rise in pressure, followed by a second and larger compression and subsequent long fall in pressure.

The wave also reached Earth’s ionosphere, rising at 700 miles per hour to a height of about 280 miles, according to data from ground stations.

A key difference between the Lamb wave of the Hunga blast and the 1883 wave is the amount of data collected as a result of more than a century of technological advances and a global proliferation of sensors, the paper said.

Scientists noted other findings about atmospheric waves associated with the eruption, including “remarkable” long-range infrasound – sounds too low in frequency to be heard by humans. Infrasound came after the Lamb wave and was followed in some regions by audible noise.

Audible noises, the paper notes, traveled about 6,200 miles to Alaska, where they could be heard as repeated booms across the state about nine hours after the eruption.

“I heard the noise but definitely didn’t think it was a volcanic eruption in the South Pacific at the time,” Fee said.

The Alaska reports are the most widely documented reports of audible noise from their source. This is partly due to global population growth and advances in societal connectivity, the paper said.

“We’ll be studying these signals for years to learn how the atmospheric waves were created and how they propagated across the Earth so well,” Fee said.

Reference: “Atmospheric Waves and Global Seismoacoustic Observations of the January 2022 Hunga Eruption, Tonga” by Robin S. Matoza, David Fee, Jelle D. Assink, Alexandra M. Iezzi, David N. Green, Keehoon Kim, Liam Toney, Thomas Lecocq , Siddharth Krishnamoorthy , Jean-Marie Lalande , Kiwamu Nishida , Kent L Gee , Matthew M Haney , Hugo D Ortiz , Quentin Brissaud , Leo Martire , Lucie Rolland , Panagiotis Vergados , Alexandra Nippress , Junghyun Park , Shahar Shani-Kadmiel Alex Witsil, Stephen Arrowsmith, Corentin Caudron, Shingo Watada, Anna B Perttu, Benoit Taisne, Pierrick Mialle, Alexis Le Pichon, Julien Vergoz, Patrick Hupe, Philip S Blom, Roger Waxler, Silvio De Angelis, Jonathan B Snively, Adam T Ringler, Robert E Anthony, Arthur D Jolly, Geoff Kilgour, Gil Averbuch, Maurizio Ripepe, Mie Ichihara, Alejandra Arciniega-Ceballos, Elvira Astafyeva, Lars Ceranna, Sandrine Cevuard, Il-Young Che, Rodrigo De Negri, Carl W. Ebeling, Laslo G. Evers, Louis E. Franco-Marin, Thomas B Gabrielson, Kathryn Hafner, R Giles Harrison, Attila Komjathy, Giorgio Lacanna, John Lyons, Kenneth A Macpherson, Emanuel Marchetti, Kathleen F McKee, Robert J Mellors, Gerardo Mendo-Perez, T Dylan Mikesell, Edhah Munaibari , Mayra Oyola-Merce, Iseul Park, Christoph Pilger, Cristina Ramos, Mario C. Ruiz, Roberto Sabatini, Hans F. Schwaiger, Dorianne Tailpied, Carrick Talmadge, Jerome Vidot, Jeremy Webster and David C. Wilson, May 12, 2022, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.abo7063

Other Geophysical Institute scientists involved in the research include graduate student Liam Toney, acoustic wave analysis, character and animation production; Postdoc Alex Witsil, Sound Wave Analysis and Equivalent Blast Yield Analysis; and seismoacoustic researcher Kenneth A. Macpherson, sensor response and data quality. All are at the Wilson Alaska Technical Center.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory, the National Science Foundation, and the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency funded the UAF portion of the research.

Robin S. Matoza from the University of California, Santa Barbara is the lead author of the publication.

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