Global tsunamis driven by underwater volcanic eruptions


In 1883, there was a volcanic eruption so large, it killed tens of thousands of people. It expelled so much ash into the sky that, for a period of time, it changed the colors of the sunsets the world would see and the palette with which Impressionist painters would paint. In history, few volcanic eruptions had been so documented, until a recent underwater eruption earlier this year occurred off on the island nation of Tonga.

The impact of the January 2022 Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano was recorded by USC Viterbi Professors Patrick LynettCostas Synolakis and their students, and by their colleagues at eCoast Marine Consulting and Research in New Zealand, the Tonga Meteorological Service, the New Zealand National Institute of Water and the US Geological Survey.  Their research represents the first time a team of researchers was able to simultaneously collect oceanic, atmospheric, space data from a large underwater volcanic explosion. Their findings were shared in an article published in Nature.

It is obvious that tsunamis can cause considerable damage to coastal areas. But the rising sea levels created by climate change can compound the situation, says Lynett who has continuously worked with planners and policymakers to understand the dangers.

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