A volcanic eruption created a new but possibly fickle island in the middle of the South Pacific sea.
An underwater volcano next to the island kingdom of Tonga erupted in early September, causing oozing lava to rise to the surface. The expelled steam and water then formed into a new land mass, measured at over eight acres, according to NPR.
The Home Reef seamount is where the volcano was located on September 10th, 2022, when the eruption occurred. NASA’s Earth Observatory noted that it took approximately eleven hours for the land mas to rise out of the water. The agency released an image that has circulated on social media that shows the size of the new unnamed island.
Over the weekend, the Tonga Geological Services stated the island was approximately 8.6 acres and measured about 50 feet above sea level. While volcanic activities continue to plague the Home Reef, only a couple of adjacent Tonga islands are at low risk, according to the agency. “All mariners are, however, advised to sail beyond 4 kilometers away from Home Reef until further notice,” officials with the Tonga Geological Services noted in a statement.
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Underwater volcanic eruptions near Tonga that lead to new islands, although infrequent, have occurred a few times over the last two centuries, including in 1852, 1857, 1984, and 2006.
However, NASA indicated that many of these volcanic islands exist temporarily for a few months or years.
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“Islands created by submarine volcanoes are often short-lived, though they occasionally persist for years. Home Reef has had four recorded periods of eruptions, including events in 1852 and 1857,” the agency noted. “An island created by a 12-day eruption from nearby Late‘iki Volcano in 2020 washed away after two months, while an earlier island created in 1995 by the same volcano remained for 25 years.”
The Home Reef is where three of the Earth’s tectonic plates smash into each other, which allows for the underwater volcanoes to become active.
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