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Possibility of more volcanic blasts, tsunamis after Tonga eruption remains to be seen: US volcanologist

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-01-18 08:50
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An eruption occurs at the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai off Tonga, Jan 14, 2022 in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. [Photo/Agencies]

LOS ANGELES - A volcanologist from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) told local media that whether there would be more volcanic blasts or tsunami warnings for the U.S. West Coast after the underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga remained to be seen.

Wendy Stovall, volcanologist with the USGS Volcano Hazards Program (VHP), was quoted by the local ABC 7 news channel Monday as saying that the eruption near the South Pacific island nation Saturday morning was incredible and tsunami activity is actually harder to predict after an undersea volcano like this than say an earthquake.

"There must have been a very large amount of magma that was exposed, somehow maybe from an underwater landslide or something, that then encountered the sea water and exploded really violently," she said.

Stovall also said that scientists don't know so far if there will be more eruption and how the eruption days ago would affect the earth.

"We will keep an eye out on things as it progresses, but certainly the type of volcano that it is there could be some additional eruptions that are large and could produce more tsunamis or it could just die out," Stovall told KOIN news channel based in Oregon. "We don't really know at this point."

"There is evidence there that volcanism occurred through bodies of water that could send out big, nothing necessarily like what was experienced in Tonga, but could send out big pressure waves and similar stratospheric type of eruptions," noted Stovall.

Stovall said that strong eruptions can sometimes cool the entire earth for a period of years, while noting that so far her colleagues studying data from Tonga have not calculated any numbers to suggest that that is the case here.

Stovall said the volcano near Tonga is regularly active. A smaller eruption started about Dec. 20 but died out before this one set off tsunami warnings.

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