Tonga’s record volcanic eruption sent atmospheric waves around the Earth

An undersea volcano erupted in January near the peaceful nation of Tonga and sent huge pressure waves into Earth’s atmosphere, where they repeatedly swept across the planet. The last volcano to generate such large ripples in the atmosphere was Krakatau in 1883, during one of the most destructive volcanic eruptions in recorded history, according to a new study.

“This atmospheric wave event was unprecedented in modern geophysical records,” said first author Robin Matoza, associate professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The research, published Thursday, May 12 in the journal Sciencerevealed that the pressure pulse generated by Tonga volcano was “comparable in magnitude to that of the 1883 Krakatau eruption and an order of magnitude greater than that of 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption,” Matoza told Live Science in an email. The higher the amplitude of a wave, the more powerful it is.

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