Alaska Climate Research Center

Home > Blog > Tonga Eruption Shockwave

Tonga Eruption Shockwave

Saturday, January 15, 2022: The explosive eruption of Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai sent a shockwave around the world.  Such extensive atmospheric gravity waves triggered by a volcanic eruption have never been observed before.  The waves spread in all directions, completing a circumnavigation of the globe and producing observable pressure peaks at weather stations worldwide.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-West satellite captured the explosive eruption of Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai. Credit: NOAA

                                                                                                                                  Distances between the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai and meteorological stations.

In Alaska, pressure peaks were registered between 7.5 and 9.5 hours after the main eruption onset.  Below are time series of atmospheric pressure observations for several locations with the time (AKST) of the peak pressure wave’s arrival at each location noted on the graph.