Volcanic eruption in Tonga seen from geostationnary satellites

On 14 January, the Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai undersea volcano erupted and caused a tsunami. It flooded the coasts of Japan, the United States and killed two people in Peru. The eruption lasted eight minutes and was so strong that it was heard “like a distant thunderclap” on the Fiji Islands, more than 800 km away.
On the Tonga Islands, no casualties have been reported for the moment, but internet and telephone connections have been cut off and there has been a lot of material damage.

The satellite images are impressive: one can see a huge mushroom of smoke and ash and the wave that was subsequently triggered by the Japanese geostationary satellite HIMAWARI.This animation of Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) on board GOES-17 (NOAA/NASA) shows the Hunga Tonga eruption from 03:40 UTC to 14:00 UTC on January 15, 2022. The animation is built with CIRA’s GeoColor composite images (a synthetic true color during day time and a 2-band infrared composite during night-time).

Through our SATMOS Data and Service Centre (CDS) located at the Satellite meteorology center (SMC) in Lannion, France, AERIS is able to obtain images and animations from 5 geostationary weather satellites orbiting at complementary locations, thus providing global coverage. The data are acquired via different channels by SATMOS, which encodes them in a common format (NetCDF) for ease of use, and provides them to the ICARE data and services centre which makes them available to users.

These images can be very useful for observations of climatic phenomena at a given moment, such as volcanic observations. A platform for observing volcanic plumes by coupling ground and satellite data is also available through our ICARE CDS: the dispersion of the Hunga Tonga volcanic plume can be observed there!Animation of Hunga Tonga plume dispersion toward Australia derived from
platform (PI: M. Boichu, marie.boichu@univ-lille.fr)

Complementary observations from other poles and DINAMIS

All Data Terra hubs as well as DINAMIS have complementary data that allow to document all aspects of this eruption very precisely:

  • ForM@Ter traces the evolution of the morphology of the volcanic island Hunga Tonga as seen by satellite: Pleiades, Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-1. More information
  • ODATIS, thanks to the “Réseau de référence des observations marégraphiques” REFMAR, allows to follow the diffusion of the tsunami caused by the eruption. More information
  • THEIA, through its ICube-SERTIT service, maps the damage to guide emergency aid interventions. More information
  • The #DINAMIS catalogue, a French system of very high spatial resolution images, disseminates satellite observations activated in the area and their comparison with archive images allows the assessment of damage on the coastline. More information

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