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Weather Wise: Tonga volcano eruption recorded in Montana

Weather Wise: Tonga volcano eruption recorded in Montana
Posted at 9:12 AM, Jan 18, 2022

HELENA — The Hunga Tonga volcanic eruption on the other side of the world was literally felt and heard across the globe, as long as you had the right instruments.

Tsunami waves reached the west coast of North America. People in Alaska and western Canada heard the eruption and sonic boom some 5,000 miles away. Approximately 200 lightning strikes took place near the island of Tonga in the first hour of the eruption.

If you happen to have a backyard weather station, chances are your might have detected this weekend’s eruption as well. Weather instruments from around the world recorded two shockwaves from the enormous blast.

The underwater blast occurred on Friday sending a shockwave across the Pacific Ocean in all directions.

At around 6 a.m. on Saturday, many barometers across the west — including Montana — recorded rapid pressure fluctuations over the course of several minutes as that first shockwave moved across the country from west to east.

CBS News Hunga Tonga volcanic eruption

A second wave from the opposite direction was observed from barometers Saturday evening. This wave traveled from east to west across the country.

The shockwaves traveled at an average speed of nearly 700 to 800 miles per hour, faster than the speed of sound.

Volcanic eruptions can release enormous amounts of sulfur dioxide and aerosols that can cool the planet and work to snuff out a La Nina pattern. Right now this eruption may only have about 1/50 of the impact that the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption had.

So it's possible the world is not through with feeling the effects of the Hunga Tonga volcano just yet.