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The impacts and legacy of the 2022 eruption of Hunga Volcano, Kingdom of Tonga

The climax of the 2021-2022 eruption of Hunga Volcano (also called Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai) on the 15th January 2022 was the most explosive volcanic eruption this century. The eruption generated pressure waves that travelled around the planet multiple times, ash clouds that reached the mesosphere, tsunamis with run-ups over 10 m and severed the subsea telecommunication cables that connected the Kingdom of Tonga to the rest of the world.

Hunga Volcano, 70 km offshore from Tongatapu, is an almost entirely submerged caldera volcano. The 2023 eruption was the most explosive in recent history, and resulted in substantial modification to the seafloor. By comparing bathymetric datasets from before the eruption with datasets acquired by this team and autonomous vehicles in the months immediately after the event, we are able to identify the impacts of the eruption on the seafloor and the processes that caused the damage to the cables and, by combining this with auxiliary datasets, provide new constraints on the speed and dynamics of volcanic triggered submarine flows.

The eruption deepened the caldera floor by 800 m, with a loss of > 6 km3 of material, while high energy submarine density flows, focussed into gullies, caused upwards of 90 m of erosion higher up the flanks and deposited large lobes of material at the bases of them. These flows travelled hundreds of kilometres from the volcano at some of the fastest speeds ever measured for submarine density flows and were responsible for the damage to the subsea cables.


Isobel Alice Yeo1, Michael Andrew Clare1, Sally Watson2, Richard Wysoczanski2, Sarah Seabrook2, Kevin Mackay2, James Hunt1, Emily Lane2, Peter Talling3, Edward Pope3, Shane Cronin4, Marta Ribó Gene5, Taaniela Kula6, David Tappin7, Stuart Henrys8, Cornel de Ronde8, Morelia Urlaub9, Steffan Kutterolf9, Miros Charidemou1, Mike Edwards1, Rebecca Garnett1, Cian McGuire1, Mike Williams2
1National Oceanography Centre, United Kingdom; 2NIWA, Aotearoa New Zealand; 3Durham University, UK; 4University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand; 5Auckland University of Technology, Aotearoa New Zealand; 6Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Kingdom of Tonga; 7British Geological Survey, UK; 8GNS Science, Aotearoa New Zealand; 9GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany
GeoBerlin 2023
SW Pacific