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

In the South Pacific Ocean 249 kilometer from Nuku‘alofa, Tonga, a strong MAG-6.4 earthquake occurred in the morning of Friday January 19th, 2024. Shaking may have been felt by a total of 20 thousand people.

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Earthquake Summary

This earthquake hit under water in the South Pacific Ocean, 153 kilometers (95 mi) off the coast of Tonga, 249 kilometer north of Nuku‘alofa in Tongatapu. The center of this earthquake had an intermediate depth of 211 km.

Date and Time: Jan 19, 2024 11:12AM (Tongatapu Time)
- Jan 18, 2024 22:12 Universal Time.
Location: 249 km north of Nuku‘alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga.
Coordinates 18°54'24"S 175°25'3"W.
Map: Map of area around epicenter.
Map of area around epicenter. Click to open in Google Maps.
Magnitude: MAG 6.4
Detected by 10 stations. Maximum Error Range ±0.038 .
Depth: 211 km (131 mi)
An intermediate depth.
Max. Intensity:
V
Moderate

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 20 thousand people exposed to shaking

This earthquake may have been felt by around 20 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.

Light shaking and likely no damage may have been experienced by an estimated 21,440 people. At IV, it is the highest MMI level this earthquake has caused. All exposure to shaking was within the borders of Tonga .

People MMI Level Shaking Damage
0
I
Not noticable None
0
II
Very weak None
0
III
Weak Probably none
21,440
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 249 kilometer (155 mi) north of the epicenter of this earthquake, Nuku‘alofa (Tongatapu, Tonga) is the nearest significant population center.

Overview of nearby places

Distance Place
249 km (155 mi)
S from epicenter
Nuku‘alofa

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

Earthquake Intensity Map

The intensity in shaking and damage by this earthquake is illustrated through the map below. The highest intensity measured for this earthquake is IV.

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.

Shaking reported by 3 people

People that feel an earthquake may report their experience to the US Geographic Survey. Currently, 3 people have reported shaking in 3 places, all within Tonga.We keep updating this article as more ground reports become available. You may report that you felt this earthquake here.

Places with most reports:

  • Nukuʿalofa, Tongatapu, Tonga: 1 person.
  • Tofoa-Koloua, Tongatapu, Tonga: 1 person.
  • Neiafu, Vavaʿu, Tonga: 1 person.

Aftershocks detected

In the days before this main shock, 1 smaller foreshock was detected. Roughly 2 days before this earthquake, a foreshock measuring MAG-4.3 was detected nearby this earthquake.

Overview of foreshocks and aftershocks

Classification Magnitude When Where
Foreshock M 4.3 2 days earlier
Jan 17, 2024 06:20AM (Tongatapu Time)
57 km (36 mi)
N from Main Shock.
Main Shock
This Earthquake
M 6.4 Jan 19, 2024 11:12AM
(Tongatapu Time)
-
Detected MAG2.5+ earthquakes within within 100km (62 mi), that occurred in the three days before and after the main shock.

More earthquakes coming?

Earthquakes can create aftershocks. These are generally at least 1 magnitude lower than any main shock, and as time passes the chance and strength of aftershocks decreases.

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 are common in the region

Earthquakes of this strength occur quite regularly in the region. This is the strongest earthquake to hit since July 2nd, 2023, when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit 124 km (77 mi) further north-northeast. An even stronger magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck on November 1st, 2014.

In total, 8 earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.4 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 year.

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 6.4. Earthquakes of this strength are unlikely to trigger a tsunami.
Not this earthquake.
This earthquake occurred at a depth of 211 km (131 mi). Earthquakes this deep in the earth are unlikely to trigger a tsunami.

Sources

Last updated 03/03/24 03:58 (). This article contains currently available information about the earthquake and is automatically composed. We continue to update this article up to a few days after the earthquake occurred.

  1. US Geographic Society (USGS): Earthquake us6000m4js
  2. European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC): Earthquake 20240118_0000266
  3. Geonames.org: World Cities Database
  4. Google Maps: Static API
  5. Earthquakelist.org: Historic Earthquakes Database

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