New 6-Acre Island in Pacific Ocean Has Been Seen From Space

A new 6-acre island in the Pacific Ocean, caused by an underwater volcano eruption, has been seen from space

On September 10, the Home Reef underwater volcano in Tonga began rumbling to life. The seamount began discolored the surrounding water as it gushed lava, spewing steam and ash, Nasa's Earth Observatory said in a blog post.

Hours after the eruption began, a new volcanic island emerged from the water.

Tonga Geological Services has observed the activity surrounding the new island.

On September 14, the island stretched to 1 acre and 33 feet above sea level. By September 20, it had expanded to cover up to 6 acres.

A satellite image of the new island has now been captured from space.

Home Reef
A picture of the new volcanic island has been captured from space. Lauren Dauphin / U.S. Geological Survey

The Home Reef volcano is located on a seafloor ridge between Tonga and New Zealand, that has the highest number of underwater volcanoes in the world.

The island lies to the northeast of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai—an underwater volcano that last erupted in January this year. It was the biggest volcanic eruption on Earth in 30 years and caused a four-foot tsunami wave. Home Reef is located in what is known as the Tonga-Kermadec subduction zone, according to Nasa's Earth Observatory. This zone is an area where three tectonic plates "are colliding at the fastest converging boundary in the world," the Observatory said.

As one of the plates sinks beneath two other smaller plates, a huge trench is formed. It also caused ones of the most active volcanic arcs in the world.

Volcanoes that are submerged in the water are known as seamounts. When underwater volcanoes erupt, the build of lava occasionally breaks the surface of the water. This causes an island to form.

These islands do not usually last long, although some may stay for years. This is not the first time Home Reef eruptions have caused the phenomenon. The volcano has had four previous periods of eruptions. Islands formed after eruptions in 1852 and 1857. Eruptions in 1984 to 2006 also caused islands to form, although these were very fleeting.

Another nearby volcano called Late'iki erupted in 1995, causing an island that lasted for 25 years. However, another island created after a 2020 eruption disappeared after only 2 months.

According to an update from the Tonga Geological Service, the recent Home Reef activity poses little risk to the surrounding community.

"All mariners are, however, advised to sail beyond 4 kilometers away from Home Reef until further notice," the update said.