Written by on . Last updated March 3rd, 2024.

In the South Pacific Ocean 135 kilometer from Nuku‘alofa, Tonga, a significant MAG-5.7 earthquake occurred in the late afternoon of Thursday January 4th, 2024. Around 90 thousand people have been exposed to shaking.

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Earthquake Summary

This earthquake hit under water in the South Pacific Ocean, 128 kilometers (79 mi) off the coast of Tonga, 135 kilometer west of Nuku‘alofa in Tongatapu. The center of this earthquake had an intermediate depth of 197 km.

Date and Time: Jan 4, 2024 05:56PM (Tongatapu Time)
- Jan 4, 2024 04:56 Universal Time.
Location: 135 km west of Nuku‘alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga.
Coordinates 21°7'7"S 176°30'24"W.
Map: Map of area around epicenter.
Map of area around epicenter. Click to open in Google Maps.
Magnitude: MAG 5.7
Detected by 42 stations. Maximum Error Range ±0.048 .
Depth: 197 km (122 mi)
An intermediate depth.
Max. Intensity:
IV
Light

On the Modified Mercalli Scale.
Tsunami Risk: Tsunami very unlikely
Earthquakes under MAG-6.5 at depths deeper than 100km are very unlikely to cause tsunami's.
Always stay cautious - More info here.

Minimal impact predicted

Based on scientific estimates by the US Geographic Survey (USGS), the risk of high fatalities for this earthquake is classified at level GREEN (low). They expect an 65% likelyhood of between 0 and 1 fatalities, and a 96% chance that the number of fatalities falls no higher than 10.

The USGS classifies the economic impact of this earthquake at level GREEN (low). They expect an 65% likelyhood of between 0 and 1 million US Dollars in economic damage and impact, and a 96% chance that the economic impact of this earthquake falls no higher than 10 million USD.

Roughly 90 thousand people exposed to shaking

This earthquake may have been felt by around 90 thousand people. That is the expected population size of the area exposed to a level of shaking of II or higher on the Modified Mercalli scale according to the USGS.

An estimated 27,450 people were exposed to level IV. At this level, light shaking and likely no damage can be expected. The majority of people (roughly 60 thousand) live in an area exposed to level III, where weak shaking and probably no damage is expected.

People in 2 countries have been exposed to shaking. In Tonga , around 90 thousand people, with impact levels up to IV (light shaking, likely no damage). People were exposed to shaking in Fiji as well.

People MMI Level Shaking Damage
0
I
Not noticable None
0
II
Very weak None
60,480
III
Weak Probably none
27,450
IV
Light Likely none
0
V
Moderate Very light
0
VI
Strong Light
0
VII
Very Strong Moderate
0
VIII
Severe Moderate to heavy
0
IX
Violent Heavy
0
X
Extreme Very heavy

Nearby towns and cities

This earthquake may have been felt in Tonga . Located 135 kilometer (84 mi) west of the epicenter of this earthquake, Nuku‘alofa (Tongatapu, Tonga) is the nearest significant population center. The intensity of shaking and damage in Nuku‘alofa is estimated to be around level IV on the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale (light shaking, likely no damage).

Overview of nearby places

Distance Place Intensity (MMI)
135 km (84 mi)
E from epicenter
Nuku‘alofa

Tongatapu, Tonga.
IV
Light
Cities and Towns around the epicenter of this earthquake.

Earthquake Intensity Map

The maximum intensity (MMI Scale) caused by this earthquake is IV. The map below shows in which areas this earthquake was the most and least impactful. It is based on data from the US Geographic Survey.

I Not felt
II Weak
III Weak
IV Light
V Moderate
VI Strong
VII Very Strong
VIII Severe
IX Violent
X Extreme
Earthquake Intensity Map based on Shakemap Data provided by USGS.

Risk of aftershocks?

We have not yet detected any foreshocks or aftershocks (MAG-2.5 or higher) within 100km (62 mi) of this earthquake.

The risk of aftershocks decreases rapidly over time. Usually, aftershocks are at least one order of magnitude lower than a main shock.

In only six percent of cases, significant earthquakes are followed by a larger main shock, making the current earthquake a foreshock. While the chance of this happening is not so large, it is adviced to maintain cautiousness in the hours and days following a major earthquake.

Read: How to Stay Safe during an Earthquake (cdc.gov).

Earthquakes like this happen often in the region

Earthquakes of this strength are very common in the region. This is the strongest earthquake to hit since December 11th, 2023, when a 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit 271 km (169 mi) further north-northeast. An even stronger magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck on June 15th, 2023.

In total, 66 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.7 or higher have been registered within 300km (186 mi) of this epicenter in the past 10 years. This comes down to an average of once every 2 months.

Tsunami very unlikely

DISCLAIMER: We strongly suggest to closely monitor advice from local authorities with regards to tsunami risks. Our analysis is based on automatically collected data from external sources, and these might contain mistakes. In addition, earthquakes can cause landslides that may lead to a tsunami, or be a followed by another, potentially stonger, earthquake.

For a serious tsunami to occur, earthquakes usually need to have a magnitude of at least 6.5 and occur at a shallow depth of maximum 100km. Neither are the case with this earthquake. However always stay cautious and monitor advice from local authorities.

Tsunami Risk Factors

Factor Under Sea? MAG-6.5 or stronger? Shallow depth?
Explanation Almost all tsunami's are caused by earthquakes with their epicenter under sea or very near the sea. However stay cautious in coastal areas as earthquakes on land may cause landslides into sea, potentially still causing a local tsunami. Under MAG 6.5: Very unlikely to cause a tsunami.
MAG 6.5 to 7.5: Destructive tsunami's do occur, but are uncommon. Likely to observe small sea level changes.
MAG 7.6+: Earthquakes with these magnitudes might produce destructive tsunami's.
Most destructive tsunami's are caused by shallow earthquakes with a depth between 0 and 100km under the surface of the earth. Deeper tsunami's are unlikely to displace to ocean floor.
This Earthquake This earthquake appears to have struck under the sea. Not this earthquake.
This earthquake had a magnitude of 5.7. Earthquakes of this strength are unlikely to trigger a tsunami.
Not this earthquake.
This earthquake occurred at a depth of 197 km (122 mi). Earthquakes this deep in the earth are unlikely to trigger a tsunami.

Sources

Last updated 03/03/24 13:18 (). This article is automatically generated based on available data. We keep checking multiple sources for additional information. This article gets updated as new details on this earthquake become available.

  1. US Geographic Society (USGS): Earthquake us6000m1ld
  2. European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC): Earthquake 20240104_0000057
  3. Geonames.org: World Cities Database
  4. Google Maps: Static API
  5. Earthquakelist.org: Historic Earthquakes Database

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