Tonga’s volcanic eruption caused Belgian air pressure to fluctuate

Tonga’s volcanic eruption caused Belgian air pressure to fluctuate
Satellite image of the volcanic eruption. Credit: Belga

The powerful volcanic eruption and tsunami that hit the island nation of Tonga in Oceania also caused an air pressure fluctuation in Belgium on Saturday night.

On Friday, a massive underwater volcano near Tonga, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, erupted for eight minutes, sending waves of several metres smashing into the shores of the island itself and into those of countries thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, from Australia to Canada.

Belgian weather stations measured an air pressure fluctuation, most likely due to the volcanic eruption in Tonga, according to weather reporter David Dehenauw. He stressed that such a pressure wave has no negative impact on the population and that this is not a dangerous phenomenon.

“On Saturday between 20:00 and 21:00, there was a fluctuation of 1 hectopascal, it went from 1,025 to 1,026 hectopascal and then it fell back,” Dehenauw.

That that surge occurred is mainly an interesting fact, according to Dehenauw. “It doesn’t mean anything and didn’t do us any harm. But even though that eruption was on the other side of the world, we do notice something of it on our measuring equipment.”


“A small pressure wave was also measured in Uccle.”

Dehenauw does call the observation striking. “You sometimes see air pressure fluctuations during gusts of wind, during a thunderstorm, during fall winds you sometimes get a peak of slightly higher pressure that then drops off again when the fall wind is over.”

“I have not yet seen this happen as a result of an underwater quake or a volcanic explosion. It has probably already happened, but we only noticed it now.”

A lot of damage, but no deaths

Some areas of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa suffered “significant” damage in Saturday’s powerful volcanic eruption and tsunami, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday, but no injuries or deaths have been reported.

The eruption was so loud that it was heard “like a distant thunderclap” on the Fiji Islands, more than 800 km away, according to Fiji officials in Suva City, cited by Belga news agency.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said at 03:00 GMT that the tsunami threat was “broadly over” for the countries bordering the ocean, although slight changes in sea level were still possible for some hours.

Communications with Tonga have been cut off since the eruption damaged an underwater cable., but Ardern’s government has managed to contact the New Zealand High Commission in the Tongan capital. New Zealand will send a military reconnaissance plane to fly over the area on Monday if the volcanic ash cloud allows.

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