The World Has a New Island

Latest addition to Tonga islands after volcanic eruption might be short-lived
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2022 6:06 AM CDT
New Island Emerges From Pacific
A Sept. 14 NASA image of the new island.   (NASA)

The world's land area is a tiny bit bigger than it was a month ago thanks to an eruption in the southwest Pacific Ocean. NASA's Earth Observatory says an island rose above the surface of the water around 12 hours after an eruption began Sept. 10 on a seafloor ridge with the world's highest concentration of underwater volcanoes. Ten days later, the island had expanded to 6 acres in size and was at least 33 feet above sea level. The new island is in the Central Tonga Islands northwest of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, which emerged from the ocean after an eruption in 2014.

In a Sept. 20 update, the Tonga Geological Service said the eruption poses low risks to aviation and residents of nearby islands, though mariners are advised to stay at least 2.5 miles away. IFL Science notes that newly formed islands like this one can quickly disappear as waves erode the volcanic rock.

But that isn't always the case: Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai was only expected to survive for a few months, but in 2019, five years after it emerged, it was covered in vegetation and had a bird population including a barn owl. It was split in two by a massive eruption earlier this year. NASA says past eruptions at the Home Reef site created other islands, some of them with cliffs more than 200 feet high, but none of them survived to the present day. (More volcano stories.)

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