Tonga Volcano Erupts

Photo from

Tonga’s volcano exploding. Photo credit to

Emily Marohn, Staff Writer

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on Jan. 15, 2022. 

When the volcano erupted, it unleashed an explosion with the equivalent force of 4 to 18 megatons of TNT. To compare, scientists estimate the Mount St. Helens explosion in 1980 had 24 megatons. 

The underwater volcanic eruption that blanketed the island nation of Tonga with ash and sent tsunami waves across the world also caused ripples in Earth’s ionosphere. The tsunami that was formed was enhanced by the atmospheric pressure waves of the explosion; a phenomenon known as a meteotsunami. The tsunami’s reached Hawaii, Japan, and Tongatapu (Tonga’s largest island). 

In early January, the data collected from scientists showed that the island had expanded by about 60% compared to before any December activity started. On Jan. 13-14, an usually powerful set of blasts sent ash surging into the stratosphere. The explosions on Jan. 15 then launched material as high as 25 miles in altitude.

The eruption is known as an “unprecedented disaster” for the archipelago. Three deaths were confirmed from the eruption, and two people drowned in Peru. However, not all injuries have been accounted for.

With this unfortunate event, some students in South Riding, Virginia have been discussing volcanoes. Freedom High School juniors and seniors are even talking about it in their AP Environmental Science classes. 

“Freedom exponentially developed my knowledge/growth in volcanoes,” said senior Aya Fakir. 

Although not all students feel like they’ve been educated enough on this topic, especially considering the traumatic events that volcanoes may lead up to. Many FHS students only are informed on the basics. 

“They form islands when they go boom,” said senior Jody Chu. 

With these volcanic eruptions happening throughout the world, learning about volcanoes can be important if taught in school. Having lessons on the warning signs, the event, and the after effects can be a good learning experience to students all over Virginia.