Editorial: Learning from Saturday’s eruption

A screenshot from satellite footage shows the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai undersea volcano in Tonga today. Image: WINDY

The revelation by New Zealand volcanologist Professor Shane Cronin is interesting.

Prof Cronin believes that while data indicates no signs of further underwater eruptions in the past few days, he says the potential for further eruptions are real.

The current thinking, he pointed out, suggested two main scenarios were possible. First, the magma present during the recent eruption had been exhausted, calming the volcano down, or new magma would enter the volcano and cause further eruptions.

In this scenario, he said, the eruptions were unlikely to be as large as the January 15, 2022 eruption. It is still important though, he said, for people to be aware of the possibility for further eruptions and monitor up-to-date information from relevant national authorities.

Ash plume, he said, consisted of ash and gases from the eruptions on Saturday and had dissipated from Tonga and Fiji, adding most of the ash had already fallen out.

“The gas has blown towards Northern Australia, up to a height of around 25km. Now the problem is when gas and ash fall down and affect low-lying areas,” he said.

“Gas generally doesn’t fall by itself but can be rained out, along with ash or after ash. Acid rain is generated when water droplets form within the plume react with the gases and fall to earth.”

Prof Cronin explained that the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Islands were the tip of a much larger underwater volcano called the Hunga volcano.

He explained that the Hunga volcano was part of a chain of volcanoes stretching from New Zealand to Samoa, and over the past few weeks, the Hunga volcano had erupted three times with the first two eruptions on December 20, 2021 and the third on Thursday last week, which were all moderate in size. T

he fourth eruption on Saturday was one of the largest eruptions seen in the region in modern history, he said. In saying that, we are now reminded about the repercussions of another eruption. We have been warned! We have lessons from last weekend’s event to consider. We hope there will be a review of processes and systems to ensure a faster turnaround time to warn Fijians of the possibility of a tsunami.

However, we have Saturday’s turn of events to remind us of the possibilities and why we must be vigilant and proactive.

While there will be emphasis placed on the powers that be to monitor what happens and inform Fijians, we are reminded about our roles in being aware and taking proactive measures in the event of another eruption.

Remember Prof Cronin talks about possibilities.

We cannot be too careful! We say stay well and stay safe Fiji!

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