Antarctica skies turned pink after Tonga volcano eruption

  • Antarctic skies have turned pink and purple in the past week, as seen in a stunning photo.
  • The change is due to particles released by a volcanic eruption earlier this year.
  • The explosion in Tonga also affected skies in other countries.

The skies over Antarctica have recently turned a dramatic pink color, likely due to aerosols released into the atmosphere by an undersea volcano eruption since the start of the year.

Stuart Shaw, a science technician working at Scott Base Antarctica in New Zealand for the winter, uploaded a photo to Instagram on July 7.

“Believe it or not, I haven’t altered those colors either, they’re pretty much as we saw them,” Shaw said, according to The Guardian. “It’s incredible.”

A globe map is annotated to show the location of the Tongan Volcano, relative to Scott Base.

Scott Base and the Tongan Volcano are shown on this map.

Google Maps/Insider

The strange color is formed by particles in the atmosphere that can travel great distances and for long periods after a volcano explodes.

A press release from the New Zealand National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) explained the phenomenon.

“Stratospheric aerosols can circulate around the world for months after a volcanic eruption, scattering and bending light as the sun dips or rises below the horizon, creating a glow in the sky with hues of pink, blue, purple and purple,” he said.

The institute tracked aerosols over Scott Station on July 7 and found they were abundant in the sky, as shown in the graph below.

LIDAR detection over Antarctica shows an abundance of aerosols over Scott Base on July 7, 2022.

This LIDAR detection over Scott Base shows that on July 7, 2022, there was an abundance of aerosols in the sky above the clouds, according to NIWA.

Nava Fedaeff, NIWA

The Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano erupted on January 15, about 20 miles from land.

The eruption produced the highest ash plume ever recorded by satellites.

It burst with about 10 megatons of force. It created a massive ash cloud and tsunami that devastated nearby Tongan villages. At least three people were killed.

The GOES-17 satellite captured images of an umbrella cloud generated by the submarine eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on January 15, 2022.

Satellites have captured images of an umbrella cloud generated by the submarine eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano on January 15, 2022.


Aerosols from volcanic eruptions can linger in the sky for about two years, during which time they spread and virtually cover the globe, according to NASA. They reflect sunlight back into space, creating strange colors.

The peculiar color of the sky seen at dusk is known as “afterglow” and is quite common after a volcanic eruption, according to New Zealand experts.

A photo from Antarctica shows Vince's Cross in the foreground and Scott Base in the background, under pink=plum skies.

The photo shows Vince’s Cross on Hut Point, erected in remembrance of George Vince, the first person known to have died in Antarctica.

Stuart Shaw/Fly on the Wall Images

The color and intensity depends on “the amount of haze and cloudiness along the path of light reaching the stratosphere,” their press release says.

People have reported seeing purple and pink skies in New Zealand and Australia over the past month, The Guardian previously reported.

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