Volcanic eruptions create new island in Tonga, experts say


Activity from underwater volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean created a new island in Tonga; the island has grown as eruptions continue, satellites show.

Photo from NASA’s Earth Observatory

Volcanic eruptions in the Pacific Ocean have created a new island in Tonga, its growth captured on satellite imagery.

An underwater volcano “awoke” on Saturday, Sept. 10 — just 11 hours later, a new island came out of the ocean, NASA’s Earth Observatory said in a news release on Sept. 14.

The volcano along Home Reef continued to gush lava, ooze gas, emit steam and erupt multiple times a day, according to daily updates from Tonga Geological Services.

The volcanic activity has incrementally grown the new island, satellite imagery shared on Thursday, Sept. 22, shows. The island — initially a dark shape lurking under the water — emerges as bright green, footage shows. Slightly shape-shifting day-to-day, the island continues to emit a plume of steam as it steadily grows.

The new island stands about 50 feet above sea level as of Monday, Sept. 19, Tonga Geological Services said.

The landmass measured about 692 feet from north to south and about 715 feet from east to west the same day. The island has an area of about 8.6 acres, the monitoring agency said.

Three tectonic plates meet at Tonga’s Home Reef, NASA said, in “the fastest converging boundary in the world.” Collisions between these plates cause volcanic activity, the observatory explained.

Volcanic activity has created islands in Home Reef four times before, according to NASA. These islands tend not to last, returning to the sea after a few months or — at most — years.

The volcanic activity at Home Reef poses “low risks” to those living on other islands in the area, the monitoring agency said on Friday, Sept. 23.

Home Reef is about 1,630 miles northeast of New Zealand.

Aspen Pflughoeft covers real-time news for McClatchy. She is a graduate of Minerva University where she studied communications, history, and international politics. Previously, she reported for Deseret News.

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