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A new island has emerged out of the Pacific Ocean, but it may soon disappear

An image released by the NASA Earth Observatory shows the volcanic eruption on Home Reef.
Lauren Dauphin
NASA Earth Observatory
An image released by the NASA Earth Observatory shows the volcanic eruption on Home Reef.

There's a new island in the South Pacific.

Earlier this month, an underwater volcano near Tonga erupted, oozing lava and expelling steam and water above the surface. It also formed a new land mass that's quickly grown from one to more than eight acres in size.

According to NASA's Earth Observatory, a volcano on what's known as the Home Reef seamount began to erupt on Sept. 10.

Eleven hours later, the unnamed island poked out of the water.

On Saturday the Tonga Geological Services estimated that the island had expanded to roughly 8.6 acres and stood at around 50 feet above sea level as of Sept. 19.

The geological agency said "volcanic activities" were continuing at Home Reef but that they posed only a low risk to the local Vava'u and Ha'apai communities.

This isn't the first time Home Reef has erupted. The region of submarine volcanoes flared up in 1852, 1857, 1984 and 2006, producing new islands each time.

Islands created by underwater volcanic activity can exist for years, though they typically don't last long, NASA said.

But there's hope the little atoll located southwest of Tonga's Late Island could endure. An island created by the nearby Late'iki Volcano in 1995 lasted for 25 years.

According to the space agency, Home Reef is part of the Tonga-Kermadec subduction zone, where three tectonic plates are smashing into each other and creating an active area for undersea volcanoes.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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