Written by on . Last updated April 16th, 2024.

In the South Pacific Ocean 172 kilometer from Nuku‘alofa, Tonga, a shallow and significant M5.3 foreshock occurred in the early morning of Sunday March 31st, 2024.

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Earthquake Summary

This earthquake hit under water in the South Pacific Ocean, 161 kilometers (100 mi) off the coast of Tonga, 172 kilometer north-northwest of Nuku‘alofa in Tongatapu. The center of this earthquake had a very shallow depth of 11 km. Shallow earthquakes usually have a larger impact than earthquakes deep in the earth.

Date and Time: Mar 31, 2024 05:44AM (Tongatapu Time)
- Mar 30, 2024 16:44 Universal Time.
Location: 172 km NNW of Nuku‘alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga.
Coordinates 19°46'57"S 175°59'42"W.
Map: Map of area around epicenter.
Map of area around epicenter. Click to open in Google Maps.
Magnitude: MAG 5.3
Detected by 17 stations. Maximum Error Range ±0.075 .
Depth: 11 km (7 mi)
A very shallow depth.
Tsunami Risk: Low tsunami risk
Earthquakes under MAG-6.5 do not usually cause tsunami's.
Always stay cautious - More info here.

Nearby towns and cities

This earthquake may have been felt in Tonga . Located 172 kilometer (107 mi) north-northwest of the epicenter of this earthquake, Nuku‘alofa (Tongatapu, Tonga) is the nearest significant population center.

Overview of nearby places

Distance Place
172 km (107 mi)
SSE from epicenter
Nuku‘alofa

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

This is likely a foreshock

This earthquake was followed by a stronger MAG-5.5 earthquake, classifying this earthquake as a foreshock.

Overview of foreshocks and aftershocks

Classification Magnitude When Where
Foreshock M 4.5 12 hrs earlier
Mar 31, 2024 03:32AM (Tongatapu Time)
24 km (15 mi)
ENE from Main Shock.
Foreshock M 4.9 12 hrs earlier
Mar 31, 2024 03:38AM (Tongatapu Time)
37 km (23 mi)
NE from Main Shock.
Foreshock
This Earthquake
M 5.3 10 hrs earlier
Mar 31, 2024 05:44AM (Tongatapu Time)
15 km (9 mi)
N from Main Shock.
Foreshock M 5.2 9 hrs earlier
Mar 31, 2024 06:35AM (Tongatapu Time)
24 km (15 mi)
N from Main Shock.
Foreshock M 4.6 8 hrs earlier
Mar 31, 2024 08:00AM (Tongatapu Time)
16 km (10 mi)
NNE from Main Shock.
Foreshock M 4.5 5 hrs earlier
Mar 31, 2024 10:32AM (Tongatapu Time)
32 km (20 mi)
NW from Main Shock.
Foreshock M 4.4 5 hrs earlier
Mar 31, 2024 10:33AM (Tongatapu Time)
47 km (29 mi)
NNW from Main Shock.
Foreshock M 4.8 5 hrs earlier
Mar 31, 2024 11:07AM (Tongatapu Time)
12 km (7 mi)
NW from Main Shock.
Main Shock M 5.5 Mar 31, 2024 04:01PM
(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?

Aftershocks are usually at least 1 order of magnitude less strong than main shocks. The more time passes, the smaller the chance and likely strength of any potential aftershocks.

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 March 26th, 2024, when a 5.4 magnitude earthquake hit 243 km (151 mi) further east-southeast. An even stronger magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck on August 19th, 2018.

In total, 219 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.3 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 17 days.

Low tsunami risk

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.

Based on early data it appears this earthquake was not strong enough (lower than MAG-6.5) to be likely to cause destructive tsunami's. However this earthquake appeared to have hit at a shallow depth under sea, so 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 5.3. Earthquakes of this strength are unlikely to trigger a tsunami.
This earthquake occurred at a depth of of 11 km (7 mi). Earthquakes this shallow could trigger a tsunami.

Sources

Last updated 16/04/24 18:48 (). 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 us7000m8yl
  2. European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC): Earthquake 20240330_0000193
  3. Geonames.org: World Cities Database
  4. Google Maps: Static API
  5. Earthquakelist.org: Historic Earthquakes Database

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