Why Tonga eruption was so big and what's next

The eruption on Saturday was incredibly explosive but also relatively brief. The plume rose into the air more than 30 kilometers (19 miles), but the eruption lasted only about 10 minutes, unlike some big eruptions that can continue for hours. Cronin said the power of the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano ranks among the world’s biggest over the past 30 years, and the height of the plume of ash, steam and gas was comparable with the huge 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, which killed several hundred people.

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows an overview of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano in Tonga Jan. 6, 2022, before a huge undersea volcanic eruption. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies via AP, File)

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows an overview of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in Tonga Jan. 6, 2022, before a huge undersea volcanic eruption. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies via AP, File)

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