New 6-acre island in the Pacific Ocean seen from space

A new 6-acre island in the Pacific Ocean created by an underwater volcanic eruption has been seen from space

On September 10, Tonga’s underwater volcano, Home Reef, rumbled to life. The seamount began discoloring the surrounding water as it spouted lava and spewed steam and ash, Nasa’s Earth Observatory said in a blog post.

Hours after the eruption began, a new volcanic island emerged from the water.

Tonga Geological Services has been monitoring activity around the new island.

On September 14, the island extended to 1 acre and 33 feet above sea level. By September 20 it had extended to as much as 6 acres.

A satellite image of the new island has now been taken from space.

home reef
An image of the new volcanic island was captured from space.
Lauren Dauphin/US Geological Survey

Home Reef Volcano is located on a seafloor ridge between Tonga and New Zealand that has the highest number of underwater volcanoes in the world.

The island is northeast of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai – an underwater volcano that last erupted in January this year. It was the largest volcanic eruption on Earth in 30 years and created a four-foot tsunami wave. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, Home Reef is located in what is known as the Tonga-Kermadec subduction zone. This zone is an area where three tectonic plates are “colliding at the world’s fastest converging boundary,” the observatory said.

When one of the plates sinks under two other smaller plates, a huge rift is created. It also caused one of the most active volcanic arcs in the world.

Volcanoes submerged in water are called seamounts. When underwater volcanoes erupt, lava occasionally erupts from the water surface. This creates an island.

These islands usually don’t last long, although some can stay for years. This isn’t the first time Home Reef eruptions have caused the phenomenon. The volcano has previously had four periods of eruption. Islands formed after eruptions in 1852 and 1857. Eruptions in 1984–2006 also resulted in island formation, although these were very volatile.

Another nearby volcano called Late’iki erupted in 1995, creating an island that lasted for 25 years. However, another island formed after an eruption in 2020 disappeared after just 2 months.

According to an update from the Tonga Geological Service, recent activity at Home Reef poses a low risk to the surrounding community.

“However, all seafarers are advised to sail more than 4 kilometers from Home Reef until further notice,” the update reads. New 6-acre island in the Pacific Ocean seen from space

Rick Schindler

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