Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A piece of the Perito Moreno glacier, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, breaks off and crashes into Lake Argentina in the Los Glaciares National Park on April 5, 2019 in Santa Cruz province, Argentina. (Photo: David Silverman via Getty Images)

A piece of the Perito Moreno glacier, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, breaks off and crashes into Lake Argentina in the Los Glaciares National Park on April 5, 2019 in Santa Cruz province, Argentina. (Photo: David Silverman via Getty Images)

Tonga's Volcanic Tsunami Foreshadows Effects of Glacier Melt From CO2

As the world's surface ice melts and the oceans rise, that will put more pressure on the earth's crust, so we will see increased vulcanism, and more tsunamis.

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

A massive eruption in an undersea volcano, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, 40 miles north of the South Pacific island of Tongatapu on Saturday caused a low-level tsunami and flooding on the island, the most populous in the Tonga archipelago. The tsunami spread out from there, causing one- to three-foot waves in Hawaii and some one-foot waves on the West Coast of the US and down to Chile. The waves created rip tides that endangered marinas and swimmers. Further eruptions cannot be ruled out.

At the moment, most volcanic eruptions are not related to the climate emergency, but events like this give us a taste of what will begin happening regularly if large Antarctic glaciers begin plopping into the ocean because of the coal and gasoline we burn daily. In fact, some of those glaciers could raise sea levels as much as six feet all by themselves, so their effects would be much worse. Some scientists believe that the Thwaite "doomsday glacier" could break up within only ten years.

Moreover, as the world's surface ice melts and the oceans rise, that will put more pressure on the earth's crust, so we will see increased vulcanism, and more tsunamis. So get used to it.

The earth is capable of intense fury that can sweep everything along in its path, and our burning of fossil fuels and putting billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere are infuriating the earth

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern posted this photo of this behemoth of an eruption on her Facebook page:

New Zealand Facebook page

The volcano threw up an ash cloud to 63,000 feet, higher than New Zealand aircraft could fly, and so prevented aerial reconnaissance.

Three-foot waves slammed into the coast at the Kingdom of Tonga's capital city, Nukuʻalofa, depositing boulders and ships and damaging shops. The king had to be evacuated from his palace on Tongatapu, the island on which 70 percent of Tongans live.

Tongans in New Zealand who were able to get in cell phone contact with family members in the islands reported that much of Nuku'alofa was under water.

A layer of ash nearly an inch thick was deposited some places, endangering fresh water sources and air quality An undersea cable stopped working, possibly because of a loss of electricity, and the situation on the Tonga islands is a little unclear. Some photos of flood damage have been sent to the outside world, though:

Tonga

Tonga in S. Pacific (h/t Wikimedia).

The Kingdom of Tonga has a population of about 104,000, spread over 36 inhabited islands in the archipelago, of which 70 percent live on the main island of Tongatapu. It is the site of the capital, Nuku'alofa, which reportedly has suffered heavy flooding as well as ash deposits. Sea level rise because of human CO2 emissions and consequent global heating threatens to submerge many South Pacific islands.


© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·


Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·


Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·


With GOP House Control Looming, Pascrell Calls for Swift Release of Trump Tax Records

"Donald Trump tried to hide his tax returns from our oversight but after 1,329 days we have finally obtained the documents," said the New Jersey Democrat. "We should review and release them."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo