The Hunga Volcano in the South Pacific made waves when it erupted in January 2022. The blast that it created sent pressure waves all around the planet, sending over 58,000 swimming pools worth of water into the atmosphere, according to Mashable. The record-breaking eruption’s plume of ash and smoke also reached over 35 miles high, which is the highest ever observed.
We’ve already seen volcanos creating newly birthed islands in the Pacific, and we know that last year’s Tonga Hunga volcano eruption was high enough to disrupt satellite signals in space. Now, researchers are saying that the eruption was so record-breaking that it also birthed lofty volcanic thunderstorms.
These thunderstorms are so notable because they reportedly produced some of the most intense lightning that we have ever recorded, with the storm creating over 2,600 flashes of lightning per minute at its peak. For context, the previous record holder for the most intense lightning was just 993 flashes per minute, so this storm more than doubled that number.
The research also notes that the storm produced a massive 150-mile ring of lightning. The video, which we’ve embedded in this article, showcases each lightning flash as a blue dot. They say that the lightning appeared to “ride the waves” that pulse outward through the storm’s massive cloud. NASA video also captured the eruption, including images of the plume and aftermath.
Altogether, this record-breaking eruption has only highlighted just how volcanic eruptions can produce some of the most extreme and disruptive weather on the planet. It’s really an intriguing discovery, especially when you look at how many other records this eruption has broken in the process.
“Really, everything about this eruption was supersized,” Alexa Van Eaton, a volcanologist at the Geological Survey, told Mashable. Van Eaton was the lead on the new research highlighting the lightning storms produced by the record-breaking eruption. That research is available in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.