A new island allegedly formed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after an underwater volcano erupted not far from Australia.
The phenomenon occurred earlier this month after the underwater volcano, Home Reef, located in the Central Tonga Islands, erupted. Within hours, the Earth’s newest land mass had formed.
On September 14th, scientists at Tonga Geological Services announced the island covered around four thousand square meters and its elevation was ten meters above sea level. By September 20th, the island had grown to twenty-four thousand square meters.
Scientists noted that lava from the volcano was cooled by the ocean water, forming the island, which grew in size over several days as the lava continued to flow.
New Island in Pacific Ocean poses low risk to aviation
Since September 10th, the eruption has been ongoing until at least last Friday, September 23rd, when Tonga Geological Services confirmed on Facebook that it “poses low risks to the Aviation Community and the residents of [nearby island groups] Vava’u and Ha’apai.”
The Facebook post reads, “No visible ash in the past 24 hours was reported, all Mariners are advised to sail beyond 4km away from Home Reef until further notice.”
Volcano islands are often short-lived
According to NASA Earth Observatory, the newly formed island might not be permanent.
In an update about the new finding, the agency’s Earth Observatory said, “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. Small islands temporarily formed after both events, and eruptions in 1984 and 2006 produced ephemeral islands with cliffs that were fifty to seventy meters high.
“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 agency reported.
NASA Earth Observatory further pointed out that in the southwest Pacific Ocean, “a sea floor ridge that stretches from New Zealand to Tonga has the highest density of underwater volcanoes in the world.”
The agency stated that Home Reef sits within the Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone, where three tectonic plates “are colliding at the fastest converging boundary in the world.”
“The Pacific Plate here is sinking beneath two other small plates, yielding one of Earth’s deepest trenches and most active volcanic arcs,” NASA reported.