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

Just before midnight of Wednesday January 31st, 2024, a significant M5.8 earthquake hit in the South Pacific Ocean 276 kilometer from Nuku‘alofa, Tonga. Roughly 20 thousand people may have felt this earthquake.

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Earthquake Summary

This earthquake hit under water in the South Pacific Ocean, 275 kilometers (171 mi) off the coast of Tonga, 276 kilometer southwest of Nuku‘alofa in Tongatapu. The center of this earthquake had an intermediate depth of 175 km.

Date and Time: Jan 31, 2024 11:49PM (Tongatapu Time)
- Jan 31, 2024 10:49 Universal Time.
Location: 276 km SW of Nuku‘alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga.
Coordinates 22°49'48"S 177°9'31"W.
Map: Map of area around epicenter.
Map of area around epicenter. Click to open in Google Maps.
Magnitude: MAG 5.8
Detected by 21 stations. Maximum Error Range ±0.068 .
Depth: 175 km (109 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 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.

The highest earthquake impact level for this earthquake is III, which corresponds with weak shaking and probably no damage. Roughly 19,950 people are expected to be exposed to this level.

People in 2 countries have been exposed to shaking. Roughly 20 thousand people were exposed to shaking in Tonga , with level III (weak shaking, probably no damage) as the highest recorded.

People MMI Level Shaking Damage
0
I
Not noticable None
0
II
Very weak None
19,950
III
Weak Probably none
0
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 . The closest significant population center near the earthquake is Nuku‘alofa in Tongatapu, Tonga. Nuku‘alofa is located 276 kilometer (171 mi) southwest of the epicenter. Nuku‘alofa experienced an earthquake intensity (MMI Scale) of roughly III. That level implies weak shaking and probably no damage.

Overview of nearby places

Distance Place Intensity (MMI)
276 km (171 mi)
NE from epicenter
Nuku‘alofa

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

Earthquake Intensity Map

The maximum intensity (MMI Scale) caused by this earthquake is III. 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.

Shaking reported by 1 person

People that feel an earthquake may report their experience to the US Geographic Survey. Currently, 1 person has reported shaking in one place in Solomon Islands.We keep updating this article as more ground reports become available. You may report that you felt this earthquake here.

Places with most reports:

  • Honiara, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands: 1 person.

Risk of aftershocks?

We monitor for foreshocks or aftershocks that have a magnitude of 2.5+ and occur within 100km (62 mi) of the epicenter of this earthquake. So far no such earthquakes have been detected.

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

It's always adviced to be cautious of the risk of a larger shock following any significant earthquake, however this risk is fairly small. There is a roughly 94 percent change that no larger main shock will follow in the days following this 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 January 18th, 2024, when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit 161 km (100 mi) further north-east. An even stronger magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck on June 15th, 2023.

In total, 52 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.8 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 5.8. Earthquakes of this strength are unlikely to trigger a tsunami.
Not this earthquake.
This earthquake occurred at a depth of 175 km (109 mi). Earthquakes this deep in the earth are unlikely to trigger a tsunami.

Sources

Last updated 03/03/24 02:58 (). As more information on this earthquake becomes available this article will be updated. This article is automatically composed based on data originating from multiple sources.

  1. US Geographic Society (USGS): Earthquake us7000lv7d
  2. European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC): Earthquake 20240131_0000125
  3. Geonames.org: World Cities Database
  4. Google Maps: Static API
  5. Earthquakelist.org: Historic Earthquakes Database

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