The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano that awoke from a seven-year slumber in Tonga was monitored using an array of satellites.

On the morning of 14 January 2022, satellites captured a cataclysm in action when a 12-mile-high plume of ash pierced the sky, increasingly turbulent. The Tonga eruption is one of the largest explosions this century. Scientists are trying to understand how magma met seawater, turning into a pressurised bomb and created a 10-megaton explosion.

The science behind this singular eruption is rife with unanswered questions. There are only two certainties: The first is that this has been a tragedy for Tonga, but future lives will be saved if this eruption’s deadly features can be decoded; the second is that Tonga, a small nation now scarred by this volcanic eruption, cannot achieve this scientific goal alone.

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