Tonga Volcano Blasted Out Pressure Waves "Very Close to The Theoretical Limit"

The enormous eruption of the undersea Tonga volcano in the Pacific earlier this year produced such a tremendous explosion that it sent massive pressure waves coursing through the atmosphere and throughout the world.

According to a new research, these waves were the fastest ever seen within our atmosphere, reaching speeds of 720 miles (1,158 kilometers) per hour.

"This was a genuinely huge explosion, and truly unique in terms of what's been observed by science to date," research main author Corwin Wright, a Royal Society University Research Fellow based at the University of Bath's Centre for Space, Atmospheric, and Oceanic Science, said in a statement.

The volcanic-caused air waves moved at extraordinary speeds, "very close to the theoretical limit," he said.

Wright and his colleagues published their findings in the journal Nature on Thursday (June 30).

The volcano, known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, or simply Hunga, is located approximately 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of the Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa and is part of the Tonga-Kermadec volcanic arc.

Hunga erupted on January 15th, sending a towering plume of gas and particles into the mesosphere, the third layer of the atmosphere above Earth's surface.

At its peak, the plume was 36 miles (58 kilometers) tall, making it the greatest volcanic plume ever recorded by satellite.  

Various ground-based and space-based monitoring systems captured the eruption as it happened, and experts all around the world quickly began filtering through this wealth of data.

One study team discovered that Hunga's air waves were comparable to those created by the 1883 Krakatau eruption in Indonesia, which was one of the most devastating volcanic eruptions in recorded history.

The waves created by both volcanoes were comparable in that they had similar amplitudes and lapped the globe four times in one direction and three times in the other.

Another study discovered that the Hunga eruption sent ripples rushing over the ocean, causing tiny, fast-moving meteotsunamis - a succession of waves caused by air-pressure disturbances - to develop in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Mediterranean seas.

And, well above the Earth's surface, beyond the so-called Karman line, which defines the frontier of space roughly 62 miles (100 km) above our globe, shockwaves caused tremendous winds with speeds of up to 450 mph (720 kph), according to

Wright and his colleagues have now established that the Hunga eruption was one of the most explosive volcanic occurrences in modern history, using identical satellite data and ground-level measurements. Their findings indicate that the volcano's air waves lapped Earth at least six times, reaching speeds of up to 1,050 feet (320 meters) per second.

"The eruption was an amazing natural experiment," Wright noted. "The data we've been able to gather on it will enhance our understanding of our atmosphere and will help us improve our weather and climate models."

This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.