Entire country's internet service disrupted by a volcano

Originally published at: Entire country's internet service disrupted by a volcano | Boing Boing


The climate is changing at an increasingly rapid pace, and natural disasters will continue getting larger and more frequent.

Is this something that might have been exacerbated by climate change? I’m not a denier, but it’s not clear that the two are related in this case.


an erupting volcano isn’t exactly “changing climate” - the volcano likely would have blown up whether the temperature nearby was 0 C or 70 C

You could certainly argue the tsunami is or might have been higher due to changing climate, but the volcano itself is just a volcano.

There’s a chance the volcano’s ash plume could actually cool the planet slightly, but not likely enough to fight the damage we continue to do.

laying a fiber optic line next to an active underwater volcano is just bad line placement.


Not conclusive, but it’s been suggested based on past patterns of temperature and volcanic eruption frequency that a cooler planet has less eruptions, a warmer planet more, based on seeing less volcanic ash deposited during cool times vs warm times. Another problem from climate change that suggests restraining temperature rise vs. fucking around and finding out. Get Ready for More Volcanic Eruptions as the Planet Warms - Scientific American
Edited for clarity.


Hmm… the tsunami is a direct result of the volcano explosion. Other tsunamis occur due to undersea seismic events. Climate change? I don’t think so.

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I’m not clear that Thom was blaming climate change for this current problem, I just think the phrasing was clumsy and left that impression. Unless he did mean that, then how could this be resolved any time soon? There are more immediate problems being caused by climate change than erupting volcanoes.

What isn’t clear is what alternative is being proposed:
floating cables?
A battery of stationary buoys maintaining a microwave repeater network from New Zealand?
Routers suspended by drones?

The likelihood is that whomever made the risk assessment formed the conclusion that it is probably simpler to wait for an eruption then decide what to do if/when it happened.

My guess is that there are some (reasonably probable) risks that are difficult to mitigate - one simply has to deal with them afterwards by repairing as needed.
Not ideal but taking a few weeks to re-connect a cable is probably more cost efficient and more likely to be a success than trying to put in place redundancy that could be much more expensive (read: unaffordable) and with no guarantee of being disaster-proof itself.

Any temporary solutions (as are now being put in place) are dependent on the environment being in a post-disaster state, not a pre-disaster one.

Even if they had working comms would the outcomes for the Tongan people be any better?
Their homes, food and infrastructure would still be in tatters and dependent on external assistance.
Yes, that could be a bit faster I guess.


some fair points, maybe they could have routed the cable better to possibly reduce the likelihood of the disruption, perhaps farther from the known active underwater volcano.

But of course there’s always the unknown. maybe this volcano wasn’t active when the fiber line was laid down.

laying a fiber optic line next to an active underwater volcano is just bad line placement.

The issue a route for those submarine cables, use this map of cables with volcano map below.


That study was based on glacier growth on Iceland, and it makes sense that melting glaciers reducing the pressure on the ground may cause volcanoes to pop. This onle seems relevant in areas that are both covered in ice and volcanically active. I can only think of Iceland and West Antarctica. Any more areas?

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Has Big Tech flown in their top players to help with this, they go by the name of “internet warriors”…

I’m not trying to say it’s easy or inexpensive, just that it’s possible to have laid the fiber line farther from the volcano that damaged it. looking at the provided map of underwater fiber lines you can see many sections of the south pacific where lines are routed farther away from the known active volcanos. for example the southern cross cable between New Zealand and Hawaii appears to avoid Tonga and the line of volcanos to the east of it’s path. but that could have also have been the best route for shortening the cable length.

also: Tonga doesn’t have a redundant line, many of the other islands in their vicinity do. probably something they were planning to do and maybe couldn’t/hadn’t done due to cost.


There is limited evidence, mostly from Icelandic volcanoes, that melting ice caps causes an uptick in volcanism. A reduction in downward pressure might simply reduce confining pressure on existing magma or it may trigger additional melting in the Upper Mantle that eventually results in eruptions.


Similarly, there is a strong correlation between changes in sea level affecting activity at Santorini in the Aegean. Here, falling sea levels impose less pressure on the magma allowing more frequent volcanism.

Chris Satow, Agust Gudmundsson, Ralf Gertisser, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Mohsen Bazargan, David M. Pyle, Sabine Wulf, Andrew J. Miles, Mark Hardiman. Eruptive activity of the Santorini Volcano controlled by sea-level rise and fall . Nature Geoscience , 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41561-021-00783-4

Heavy rain is also linked to the collapse of several volcanoes - from memory - Casita in 1998, which even if they don’t trigger an eruption, produce lahars of remobilised ash and debris which can cover huge areas of land and cause large scale loss of productive farmland as well as urban areas.

There is also a question whether rising sea levels affect the flank stability of volcanic islands which could trigger landslides and - where the island is still active - potentially create sudden explosive eruptions, similar to that of last Saturday.


Mountain chains such as Kamchatka, Alaska, the Cascades and the Andes all feature volcanoes under ice caps, so the same process could conceivably trigger activity in those regions.

Though the bigger risk in all these cases is volcanic activity melting the ice and discharging meltwater and mud down their slopes, such as the catastrophic eruption art Nevado del Ruis in Colombia in 1985 which killed at least 23,000 people.

[edit: Nevado del Ruis un-autocorrected]

Ten percent of the world is covered in ice. We’ll know more of the effects of that ice on volcanism once we melt more of it. At that point, it may not be possible to freeze it back. As noted, not conclusive, but it’s the sort of thing we should nail down before allowing more ice to melt. Evaluating the relationship between climate change and volcanism - ScienceDirect

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The climate is changing at an increasingly rapid pace, and natural disasters will continue getting larger and more frequent.

The Internet is designed to route around most disasters, natural and (originally) man-made. However, but a disaster involving an isolated island dependent on a single undersea cable is not within those design parameters.


When conservatives say “humans are too small to have any impact on the climate” I point out that a volcano is little more than a pinpoint on a globe, and yet one big eruption almost immediately changes the weather worldwide.


Yeah it was definitely more of a general “Natural disasters happen and they’re also getting worse so we’re going to be seeing a lot more unexpected infrastructure problems like this.” Sorry for the confusion!


I mean, no, volcanoes erupting happen regardless of what the climate is doing. Though their eruptions can temporarily alter climate, most notably The Year without Summer in 1816 due to an eruption of Mt Tembora.

Higher sea levels due to climate change can exacerbate the effects of volcanoes, as houses and structures would be closer to the coast line for a tsunami to hit.

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Oh wow, looking through some photos, I found this guy wearing what I think is a Jamal Charles Chiefs jersey half a world away!


Does the tech exist to just deploy solar/wireless drone buoys every 20-30 nautical miles to Build a mesh backup link over the ocean to the nearest point to connect? Does their government allow citizens the same radio access as HAM’s do in the USA that they could rebuild emergency connectivity?