Tonga Eruption Heard in Alaska

The Pacific island nation of Tonga is almost 6,000 miles away from the state of Alaska in the far north. When the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai Volcano erupted on January 14th the sound waves from the eruption were heard about seven hours later in Alaska at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning. 

Several Alaskans took to social media, comparing notes, in an attempt to figure out what the mysterious sounds were. They ranged in intensity, as some described them, from large booming sounds to reports of sounds like heavy footsteps. The sounds lasted for about 30 minutes and some lower frequency sounds, mostly inaudible, lasted about two hours. 

Dr. David Fee who works for the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska Fairbanks as a research professor analyzed the data. As a scientist that also works with the Alaska Volcano Observatory he was able to confirm that the infrared measurements taken that day coincide with the volcanic pressure wave from the eruption. 

The fact that the volcano was heard almost 6,000 miles away was a rare occurrence. It certainly provides support to the facts that this was one of the strongest volcanic eruptions of the last century. 

Photo: Maxar Technologies Satellite