Report on Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai (Tonga) — 24 December-30 December 2014
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
24 December-30 December 2014
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2014. Report on Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai (Tonga). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 December-30 December 2014. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai
20.536°S, 175.382°W; summit elev. 114 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
According to a news article, fisherman had reported an eruption at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai on 19 December. A photographer in Tongatapu captured a photo of a steam plume rising from the area on 30 December and noted that steam plumes had been visible since 24 December; dense clouds on the horizon prevented views before then. Terra MODIS imagery from 29 December also showed white plumes and areas of discolored water near the islands.
Geological Summary. The small andesitic islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai are part of the western and northern remnants of the rim (~6 km diameter) of a largely submarine caldera located about 30 km SSE of Falcon Island. The topmost sequence of welded and unwelded ignimbrite units from a caldera-forming eruption was 14C dated to 1040-1180 CE (Cronin et al., 2017; Brenna et al. 2022). At least two additional welded pumice-rich ignimbrite units and nonwelded pyroclastic flow deposits, below paleosols and other volcaniclastic deposits, indicated more very large previous eruptions (Cronin et al., 2017; Brenna et al. 2022). Several submarine eruptions have occurred at this caldera system since the first recorded eruption in 1912, including 1937 and S of the islands in 1988. A short eruption in 2009 added land to to Hunga Ha'apai. At that time the two islands were each about 2 km long, displaying inward-facing sea cliffs with lava and tephra layers dipping gently away from the caldera. An eruption during December 2014-January 2015 was centered between the islands, and combined them into one larger structure. Major explosive eruptions in late 2021 initially reshaped the central part of the combined island before stronger activity in mid-January 2022 removed most of the 2014-15 material; an even larger eruption the next day sent an eruption plume high into the stratosphere, triggered shock waves through the atmosphere and tsunami across the Pacific Ocean, and left only small remnants of the islands above the ocean surface.