Hey readers, I’m excited to be writing today about a new project I have on the go: keeping a natural disaster journal. Keeping an active record of the abrupt geomorphic changes that can take place at a moments notice helps me stay present, practice gratitude for my safety and well-being, and remain actively engaged in my field of interest as a geography student. If I’m being frank, I think keeping such a journal will simply be cool to look back on in five years time. With the onset of the accelerated changes brought on by climate change, my theory is that keeping a record of natural disasters will actually help me recognize this increasing pace of events, such as flooding, mass wasting, wildfires and major climatic events (e.g. increased frequency of hurricanes, avalanche risk advisories, extreme rain events, warming seasonal temperatures, etc.). Including today’s eruption of an undersea volcano near the Pacific Nation of Tonga, this journal will help me keep record of the more unpredictable natural disasters, including eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. The undersea volcano that erupted early this morning (Jan 15 2022) did so in glorious fashion, showing off a gorgeous mushroom cloud and massive ripples across the atmosphere. Triggering tsunami wave advisories across the Pacific Northwest, I may have been a little too excited when my partner informed me of the warning issued for the Juan De Fuca Straight and west coast of Vancouver Island (amongst many other regions) earlier this morning. We’re not expecting much more than a 10cm-20cm bulge, and while waves of 80cm have been detected as travelling across the Pacific, our advisories merely say to avoid the shoreline and stay tuned for further updates. I know I shouldn’t be disappointed. A moment of recognition for the volcano of interest: today’s explosion was brought to us by the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano, this explosion being the latest in a number of significant eruptions, including that of December 20, 2021 and January 13, 2022. Indeed, this was the second time the volcano has erupted in 2 days. An active giant, Hunga has been known to erupt regularly over the past two decades, however it’s been estimated that an eruption of this magnitude is likely to occur only once in a thousand years, presenting a 0.001% probability. The volcano itself sits below two small, uninhabited islands that rise ~100m above MSL, 65km north of Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa. Between the two small islands lies the massive Hunga, an undersea wonder soaring 1800m high and 20km wide. Undersea eruptions are fascinating. When we see seafloor spreading, as magma breaks through seafloor surface and forms new oceanic crust, a thin layer of steam between the surface of the magma and the water allows the new molten rock to cool. This isn’t the case for volcanic eruptions, however, where volcanic gases quickly destroy any steam-forming layers. In return, the hot magma is in direct contact with cold water, an event volcanologists refer to as “fuel-coolant interaction”. Experts seem to be fairly certain that the Hunga caldera has awoken. At this point, many are on the edges of their seats, myself included, waiting now to see if this eruption was indeed the climax of the magma pressure release that’s been building in the Hunga subsurface. I will point out that the probability of an eruption of such great magnitude happening again is extremely small (0.000001%), but you never know. For now, this entry lies a great starting point for my natural disasters journal. For the sake of the people of Tonga, I hope worse is not yet to come. I look forward to recording and observing the geomorphic change that will undoubtably take place this year, but my thoughts go out to those affected. Always.
Natural Hazards Journal & the Undersea Eruption near Tonga
by Jaymie Fletcher | Jan 15, 2022 | BLOG | 0 comments