The eruption of the underwater volcano Tonga caused nearly 590,000 lightning strikes

The eruption of the underwater volcano Tonga caused nearly 590,000 lightning strikes

A huge underwater volcano off the coast of Tonga last month not only sent record ash plumes into the air, but also resulted in one of the largest volcanic lightning ever seen.

According to GLD360, a ground-based global lightning detection network owned and operated by Vaisala, the eruption generated nearly 590,000 lightning strikes, which was “unlike anything on record.”

According to Chis Wagaski, a meteorologist from Vaisala, the lightning almost covered the nearby islands of the Tonga archipelago.

“I can’t imagine what people on the islands had to go through when there was a huge cloud of ash overhead, a tsunami flooded everything they had, and lightning struck around them,” he said.

“It must have been apocalyptic.”

Lightning has nearly engulfed the nearby islands of the Tonga archipelago, according to Chis Wagaski, a Vaisala meteorologist.

Lightning has nearly engulfed the nearby islands of the Tonga archipelago, according to Chis Wagaski, a Vaisala meteorologist.

Ash from Tonga volcano eruption spotted from space

Ash thrown into the air as a result of a powerful underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga was photographed by astronauts of the International Space Station.

NASA has shared remarkable images taken from the dome windows of the ISS, showing the ash cover from plumes spewing thousands of feet into the atmosphere.

The event was so striking that satellites captured the moment of the eruption, and astronauts on the ISS took pictures of plumes and ash sheets over the region.

Read more: Ash from Tonga volcano eruption seen from SPACE

Based on the data, Reuters has created an incredible animation showing the spike in lightning strikes from January 13 to 15.

On January 13, an explosion above the surface caused a massive lightning strike that lasted until January 14.

Then, on January 15, the massive eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai sent off a wave of nearly 400,000 impacts in just six hours.

In total, there were almost 590,000 lightning strikes over three days – significantly more than the next largest event, the Anak Krakatoa eruption in Indonesia in 2018.

“During the Anak Krakatoa eruption in December 2018, we detected about 340,000 events over a weekly period, so finding almost 400,000 in just a few hours is extraordinary,” Mr Wagaski said.

According to GLD360 data, about 56 percent of the lightning around Tonga hit the surface of the earth or ocean, including 1,300 strikes on the main island of Tongatapu.

The remaining 44 percent of lightning strikes likely occurred within an ash plume or between clouds.

“The percentage of lightning that was classified as cloud-to-ground was higher than what you normally see in a typical thunderstorm and higher than what you normally see in volcanic eruptions, so that raises some interesting research questions,” Wagaski said.

Volcanic eruption causes two main types of lightning – dry-charge and ice.

On January 13, an explosion above the surface caused a massive lightning strike that lasted until January 14. Then, on January 15, the massive eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai sent off a wave of nearly 400,000 impacts in just six hours.

Based on the data, Reuters has created an incredible animation showing the spike in lightning strikes from January 13 to 15.

Although volcanic lightning and a typical thunderstorm are caused by different materials in the atmosphere, they are both the result of particle charging.  When large positive and negative charges accumulate in the atmosphere, electrons flow between them, which is called lightning.

Although volcanic lightning and a typical thunderstorm are caused by different materials in the atmosphere, they are both the result of particle charging. When large positive and negative charges accumulate in the atmosphere, electrons flow between them, which is called lightning.

Dry charging occurs when a volcano’s plume is “small” (up to 2.5 miles high) and ash, rocks, and broken lava particles rub against each other, building up enough charge to cause a lightning strike.

In this case, ice charging occurs in high plumes (up to 7.5 miles in height) that reach an area where water can freeze.

In the case of volcanic eruptions, this water usually comes from magma, while in normal lightning it comes from clouds.

Both forms of lightning occurred during the Tonga eruption, a dry charge on January 13 and an ice charge on January 15, Mr. Wagasky said.

The presence of seawater around the eruption also likely played a role in the thunderstorm.

A huge underwater volcano off the coast of Tonga last month not only sent record ash plumes into the air, but also resulted in one of the largest volcanic lightning ever seen.

A huge underwater volcano off the coast of Tonga last month not only sent record ash plumes into the air, but also resulted in one of the largest volcanic lightning ever seen.

It triggered a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, causing tsunami waves to hit the island, leaving it covered in ash and cut off from outside help.

It triggered a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, causing tsunami waves to hit the island, leaving it covered in ash and cut off from outside help.

When lava comes into contact with water, it breaks up into smaller pieces, increasing the number of particles available for collision.

However, several questions remain about why volcanic lightning occurs, especially at the level of interaction between microscopic particles.

“Scientists are already working to understand what caused such a massive eruption at Hunga Tonga, from the size of the explosion to the shock and pressure waves that swept around the world, as well as the tsunami and the amount of lightning,” concluded Mr. Wagaski. . .

“There will be a lot of research in the coming months and years to understand this.”

According to a recent study, the eruption itself was one of the most violent ever recorded.

NASA scientists, who studied preliminary data from the explosion on January 15, estimated its explosive yield from 5 to 30 million tons of TNT.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state in 1980 produced the same release as about 24 million tons of TNT exploded.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, an undersea volcano in the South Pacific, blasted debris up to 25 miles into the atmosphere when it erupted almost two weeks ago.

This 7.4 magnitude earthquake caused tsunami waves to hit the coastline, causing destruction and killing three people in the region.

Why does lightning strike?

The eruption of the underwater volcano Tonga caused nearly 590,000 lightning strikes

Lightning occurs when strong updrafts create static electricity in large, dense thunderclouds.

Parts of the cloud become positively charged while others become negatively charged.

When this separation of charges is great enough, a strong discharge of electricity, also known as lightning, occurs.

Such a discharge begins with a small patch of ionized air hot enough to conduct electricity.

This small area turns into a bifurcated lightning channel, which can reach several miles in length.

The channel has a negative tip that dissipates charges to the ground and a positive tip that collects charges from the cloud.

These charges move from the positive end of the channel to the negative other during the lightning flash, causing the charge to be released.

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