Underwater Volcano Erupts in Tonga – Ash and Gas Plume Reaches 17,000ft – Aviation VONA Alert Increased to Orange

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The Metis Shoal Volcano, Ha’apai, in Tonga erupted on October 15, 2019, sending a plume of ash and gas 15,000-17000ft above the summit.

As of 10:20 a.m., the Tonga Meteorological Agency increased the aviation VONA alert to Orange.

Metis Shoal Volcano starts erupting in Tonga, Metis Shoal Volcano starts erupting in Tonga map, Metis Shoal Volcano starts erupting in Tonga video
Metis Shoal Volcano starts erupting in Tonga. Picture: Geo.MTU.EDU

Metis Shoal submarine volcano is located near Kao in Tonga’s Ha’apai Group, and is famous for its previous pumice eruptions that have created large pumice rafts.

Real Tonga pilots flying between Tongatapu and Vava’u on flights R4801 and R4802 this morning observed the intermittent smoke eruption, with continuous white plumes of wispy ash cloud.

We just reconfirmed with the pilot on his way back that 25-30nm north of Kao, towering smoke erupting up to 15,000-17,000ft,” Tonga Met reported this morning, before upgrading an earlier Yellow alert to Orange.

Tonga Met Director, ‘Ofa Fa’anunu said that so far there had been no earthquakes detected in the area of the smoke eruption.

The Town Officer of Fotuha’a Island, Sifa Fuakolo, first reported to us 8:30pm last night but [we] couldn’t verify till this morning’s Real Tonga flight.

Location of Metis Shoal Volcano in Tonga
Location of Metis Shoal Volcano in Tonga. It has started erupting on October 15, 2019, again. Picture via Google Maps

He said Tonga Met will issue a new Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA) this evening, after domestic flights come in and any other shipping reports or observations are received.

An Orange VONA means that a volcano is exhibiting heightened unrest with increased likelihood of eruption, or that a volcanic eruption is underway with no or minor ash emission.

Do you remember this boat sailing through a huge field of pumice after an underwater volcano erupted back in August 2019? Well this new eruption of Metis Shoal Volcano may create something similar, covering the sea surface with ash and volcanic rocks. [Matangi Tonga]

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