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The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupts near Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean on Jan. 14, 2015. (AP) The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupts near Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean on Jan. 14, 2015. (AP)

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupts near Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean on Jan. 14, 2015. (AP)

Grace Abels
By Grace Abels November 30, 2023

Did you miss explosive news? No. This volcano erupted last year, not recently

If Your Time is short

  • The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano did erupt, but it was in January 2022, not recently. 
     

A video claiming earth-shattering news is spreading across social media.

"8 MINUTES AGO! The largest underwater volcano has SUDDENLY CRACKED OPEN the Earth!" read the caption on the Nov. 27 Facebook post, which had been viewed more than 47,000 times when this story was published.

The 15-minute video discusses in detail the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in the South Pacific. We could not find definitive information about whether it is the largest underwater volcano, but its eruption was historic.

But this magma isn’t piping hot, it’s old (and cold) news.

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted on Jan. 15, 2022. The eruption was record-breaking, earning the title of the biggest atmospheric explosion ever recorded, according to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The explosions were devastating for the nearby Tonga islands, and caused tsunamis to ripple out across the Pacific Ocean. Geoscientist Sam Purkis told The Washington Post that the eruption’s power compared to that of a hydrogen bomb. 

Concerns linger about the explosion’s impact on the climate because of the amount of water vapor released into the atmosphere. According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it was enough water to fill more than 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. There are also signs that the eruption depleted the ozone layer, according to a 2023 study.

But claims that this eruption happened Nov. 27 are out of date. We rate the claim that the largest underwater volcano recently erupted False.

Our Sources

Facebook post (archived), Nov. 27, 2023

The Washington Post, "The Tonga volcanic eruption reached so high it depleted the ozone layer," Oct. 19, 2023

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai Eruption," Aug. 8, 2023

BBC News, "Tonga tsunami: Before and after eruption," Jan. 18, 2022

The Guardian, "Tonga volcano: 84% of population affected by ashfall and tsunami," Jan. 23, 2022

U.S. Geological Survey, "In depth: Surprising tsunamis caused by explosive eruption in Tonga," Aug. 12, 2022

BBC News "How the Tonga Hunga volcano produced the most intense lightning ever seen," July 13, 2023

Geophysical Research Letters, "Lightning Rings and Gravity Waves: Insights Into the Giant Eruption Plume From Tonga's Hunga Volcano," June 20, 2023

The Washington Post, "Tonga volcano eruption was more powerful than a nuclear explosion, study says," April 14, 2023

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "Tonga Eruption Blasted Unprecedented Amount of Water Into Stratosphere," Aug. 2, 2022

Science, "Rapid ozone depletion after humidification of the stratosphere by the Hunga Tonga Eruption," Oct. 20, 2023

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "Tonga Eruption Sent Ripples Through Earth’s Ionosphere," Feb. 4, 2022

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Eruption, a Multi-Hazard Event," Jan. 26, 2022

The New York Times, "Tonga Shrouded by Ash and Mystery After Powerful Volcano Erupts," Jan. 21, 2022

Earth and Planetary Science Letters, "Pūhāhonu: Earth's biggest and hottest shield volcano," July 15, 2020

The Washington Post, "Tonga disaster highlights the hidden dangers of underwater volcanoes," Sept. 1, 2023

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Grace Abels

Did you miss explosive news? No. This volcano erupted last year, not recently

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