Satellite Spots New Pacific Island Forming as Underwater Volcano Erupts


It didn’t take a giant stork to deliver a baby island to the Pacific Ocean. It took an underwater volcano erupting. 

The Home Reef volcano in Tonga started spewing material into the water earlier this month, quickly birthing a new island. Last week, NASA Earth Observatory shared a look at the fresh land mass as seen by satellite on Sept. 14. The image shows discolored water, ash and steam plumes, and lava. 

The island is in a place known for volcanic activity. Tonga is famous for a massive eruption that spit shock waves into space in early 2022. The Home Reef eruption is a much gentler affair, though it took just 11 hours for the new island to reach above the water once the eruption kicked off Sept. 10. 

The water around the site has a greenish hue to it. “Previous research suggests that these plumes of superheated, acidic seawater contain particulate matter, volcanic rock fragments, and sulfur,” said NASA.

A Tonga Geological Services update on Monday notes the island now has a total surface of 8.6 acres and is estimated to be about 50 feet (15 meters) above sea level. The agency says the volcano poses low risk to nearby communities and advises all mariners to steer clear of the eruption area. 

Sometimes these fresh volcanic islands stick around and sometimes they wash away. Home Reef has been active before with eruptions in 1852, 1857, 1984 and 2006. Islands created from those events disappeared. The fate of this new island will be known in time.