NASA Earth Observatory Spots Newly Born Island in the Pacific

NASA has spotted a newly born island in the Pacific Ocean. The island is the result of a series of eruptions from a volcano located in Home Reef, a seamount in the central islands of Tonga. NASA says the seamount repeatedly oozed lava and ejected plumes of ash and smoke starting September 10. However, eleven hours after the eruptions began, the space agency began noticing the new island.

The Tonga Geological Survey said the island was estimated to be about 10 meters (33 feet) above sea level and 4,000 square meters (about 1 acre) wide. Six days later, however, the newly born island had grown to over 24,000 meters wide (about 6 acres). This is quite a significant growth and shows how much the seamount has erupted over these days.

The image of the newly born island shown above was captured by Landsat 9, which is part of NASA’s Operational Land Imager-2. This image was captured on September 14 and does not show how much the island has grown since it first appeared.

A wider look at the newly born island in the Pacific. Image source: NASA Earth Observatory / Lauren Dauphin

Unfortunately, NASA says this newly born island is unlikely to survive for very long. Most islands created by underwater volcanoes are short-lived. However, some have persisted for several years. Whether that will turn out to be the case here or not is unclear.

Home Reef Seamount has had four periods of record eruptions since 1852. Small islands formed after this event and another event in 1857. Further eruptions in 1984 and 2006 also produced massive ephemeral islands with cliffs measuring up to 70 meters high.

The location of this newly born island is ripe for such events as it is located in an area with three tectonic plates. The plates are constantly converging, pushing the Pacific plate further under the other two. This has led to one of the most active volcanic areas in the ocean and one of the deepest trenches on Earth.

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