Volcanic eruption in Tonga creates new island

January 21, 2015 byNick Perry
In this photo, taken Jan. 14, 2015 and released by New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, a volcano erupts near Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean. A volcano that has been erupting for several weeks near Tonga has created a new island in the ocean. (AP Photo/New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

A volcanic eruption in Tonga has created a new island—although one scientist said Wednesday it could soon disappear.

The has been erupting for a month in the ocean about 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of the capital, Nuku'alofa. Last week it disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.

New Zealand volcanologist Nico Fournier said he traveled by boat to within about a mile of the new island on Saturday to take a closer look.

He said it's made mainly of loose scoria and its dimensions are about 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) by 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles), and that it rises about 100 meters (109 yards) above the sea.

"It's quite an exciting site, you get to see the birth of an island," he said. "Visually it was quite spectacular, but there was no big sound coming with it, no boom. It was a bit eerie."

He said that once the volcano stops erupting, it will likely take the ocean no more than a few months to erode the island entirely. He said it would need to be made of lava or something more durable to survive.

Fournier, who works for New Zealand agency GNS Science, said he was able to establish that the volcano was mainly belching steam into the atmosphere, and that the small amount of ash it was sending out was rising no more than about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).

In this photo, taken Jan. 14, 2015 and released by New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, a volcano erupts near Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean. A volcano that has been erupting for several weeks near Tonga has created a new island in the ocean. (AP Photo/New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

That will come as a relief to airlines, as it is the ash that can be dangerous to planes.

Fournier said the around the island is likely fairly shallow, perhaps only about 100-200 meters (328-656 feet) deep. He said there is no name yet for the new island, and he has been told that any naming rights will fall to Tonga's king.

Explore further: Tongan volcano creates new island

Related Stories

Tongan volcano creates new island

January 16, 2015

A Tongan volcano has created a substantial new island since it began erupting last month, spewing out huge volumes of rock and dense ash that has killed nearby vegetation, officials said on Friday.

Indonesia volcano erupts, injuring 4; 1 missing

December 19, 2014

A volcano in eastern Indonesia erupted Friday, spewing towering clouds of hot ash into the air and leaving four hikers injured and one missing when they scrambled to safety, an official said.

Tongan inspection team heads to undersea volcano

March 19, 2009

(AP) -- Scientists sailed Thursday to inspect an undersea volcano that has been erupting for days near Tonga - shooting smoke, steam and ash thousands of feet (meters) into the sky above the South Pacific ocean.

Hawaii volcano lava wave nears homes

October 27, 2014

Smoldering lava from a slow-erupting volcano has reached within yards (several meters) of homes on Hawaii's Big Island, emergency officials said Monday as villagers braced to evacuate.

New Zealand volcano lets off steam

August 20, 2013

A volcano off New Zealand sent a plume of steam two kilometres (1.24 miles) into the air Tuesday, although volcanologists described the eruption as small and said it was over in minutes.

Recommended for you

Heavy oils and petroleum coke raising vanadium emissions

December 15, 2017

Human emissions of the potentially harmful trace metal vanadium into Earth's atmosphere have spiked sharply since the start of the 21st century due in large part to industry's growing use of heavy oils, tar sands, bitumen ...

Climate change made Harvey rainfall 15 percent more intense

December 14, 2017

A team of scientists from World Weather Attribution, including researchers from Rice University and other institutions in the United States and Europe, have found that human-caused climate change made the record rainfall ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.