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According to NASA researchers, the power of a massive volcanic eruption that took place on Saturday near the island nation of Tonga was equivalent to around 10 megatons of TNT. “That means the explosive force was more than 500 times as powerful as the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II,” reports NPR. From the report: The blast was heard as far away as Alaska and was probably one of the loudest events to occur on Earth in over a century, according to Michael Poland, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “This might be the loudest eruption since [the eruption of the Indonesian volcano] Krakatau in 1883,” Poland says. That massive 19th-century eruption killed thousands and released so much ash that it cast much of the region into darkness.

But for all its explosive force, the eruption itself was actually relatively small, according to Poland, of the U.S. Geological Survey. Unlike the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which spewed ash and smoke for hours, the events at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai lasted less than 60 minutes. He does not expect that the eruption will cause any short-term changes to Earth’s climate, the way other large eruptions have in the past. In fact, Poland says, the real mystery is how such a relatively small eruption could create such a big bang and tsunami.


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