The most violent eruption of the 21st century now has a very ghostly 'voice': it is that of the submarine volcano Tonga in the Pacific Ocean, which on January 15, 2022 made an entire island disappear, sprayed enough water vapor into the stratosphere to fill 58,000 swimming pools and produced gravitational and atmospheric waves that circled the Earth twice.
The noise of the catastrophic event was reconstructed by the sound artist Jamie Perera, thanks to the data collected by the satellites of the Aeolus mission of the European Space Agency (ESA), the first to study the profiles of the Earth's wind on a global scale with the aim of improve weather forecasting and climate models.
European Space Agency Sound of the Hunga Tonga Volcanic Eruption
Using data on the intensity of the winds obtained during one of Aeolus's passes over the eruption, Perera was able to obtain an audio sample of one of the shock waves, which he then manipulated to arrive at the spectral tone that he can hear.
This despite the momentary 'blackout' experienced when the plume of volcanic ash reached a higher altitude than that of the satellite: precisely because of the great height reached, in fact, the ashes fired from the volcano circumnavigated the Earth in a single week, and then almost completely disperse from the North Pole to the South Pole in about three months.
The artist's intention was to be able to evoke, through sound, the underwater landscape of the Tonga volcano and many other submerged volcanoes: "For me it was an important job", comments Perera, "I'm curious to know how the 'listening to these voices can help us explore events of this type from different perspectives, both based on data and related more to the emotional aspects they generate in human beings”.