Tonga eruption may damage environment for years, scientists say

Satellite imagery suggests the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai could cause long-lasting environmental damage.

The huge volcanic eruption in the Pacific island nation of Tonga could cause long-lasting damage to coral reefs, erode coastlines, and disrupt fisheries, scientists studying satellite images have warned.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, an undersea volcano that erupted on Saturday triggering tsunami warnings across the Pacific, has been releasing sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide – two gases that create acid rain when they interact with water and oxygen in the atmosphere.

Acid rain causes widespread crop damage and could affect Tongan staples such as taro, corn, bananas and garden vegetables. “Depending on how long the eruptions last, food security could be compromised,” Cronin said.

Satellite imagery suggests the plume is spreading westwards, which means Tonga could be spared some of the acid rain at the expense of Fiji.

The United Nations humanitarian affairs office said Fiji was monitoring its air quality and has advised people to cover their household water tanks and stay indoors in the event of rain.



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