Phenomena

Deciphering Krakatau

An animation from weather satellites shows pressure waves radiating from the Tongan eruption.

In 1883, the eruption of Krakatau (also called Krakatoa) shook the world, sending shock waves and tsunamis ricocheting across the globe. Some of the smaller waves hit shorelines in the Atlantic and Pacific that were entire continents and ocean basins away from the original explosion. At the time, scientists were so perplexed by the phenomenon that they blamed coincidental earthquakes for the wave action.

Only when Tonga experienced a similarly devastating volcanic eruption earlier this year were scientists able to verify what they’d long suspected: these smaller tsunamis were not caused by solid material displacing water; instead they are the result of atmospheric pressure waves coupling to the ocean. Follow the full story over at Quanta. (Image credit: M. Barlow; via Quanta; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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