The near-field tsunami generated by the 15 January 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano and its impact on Tongatapu, Tonga

Sci Rep. 2022 Sep 7;12(1):15187. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-19486-w.


On 15 January 2022 at 04:15 UTC, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai (HTHH) volcano in Tonga produced a massive eruption that triggered a transoceanic tsunami generated by the coupled ocean and atmospheric shock wave produced during the explosion. The tsunami first reached the coast of Tonga and eventually reached many coasts around the world. This volcano previously underwent a massive eruption in 1100 AD, and an eruption occurs approximately every 1000 years. The 2022 HTHH event provides an opportunity to study a major volcanically generated tsunami that caused substantial damage. In this study, we present a numerical simulation of a tsunami with a state-of-the-art numerical model based on a submarine explosion scenario. We constrain the geometry and magnitude of the explosion energy source based on analyses of pre- and post-event satellite images, which demonstrate that the explosion magnitude varied from 1 to 90 megatons of trinitrotoluene (Mt). Estimated submarine explosion geometries result in a suitable explosion magnitude of approximately 25 Mt, as determined with the waveform from the tide gauge in the time and frequency domains. The tsunami wave first reached the northwestern part of Tonga's Tongatapu within 10 min, with a maximum runup height of approximately 15 m, and covered the whole of Tongatapu within 30 min. Finally, the numerical simulation provides deep insights into the physical volcanic explosion processes and improves our understanding and forecasting capabilities of frequent and catastrophic tsunamis caused by submarine volcanic explosions.