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Pacific News Minute: How long will one of the newest islands survive?

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.

One of the newest islands in the Pacific is a month old today. It started with a volcano in Tonga — and has been growing since then.

The Home Reef is an active underwater volcano in the South Pacific nation, an archipelago of more than 170 islands.

NASA announced that a baby island popped out of the water 11 hours after the reef erupted on Sept. 10.

It started out at around 1 acre, but in a few days grew to about 8.6 acres because of the volcano’s recent eruptions, according to the Tonga Geological Services.

Rennie Vaiomounga, a geologist at the government agency, told The Washington Post the new island isn’t firm enough to walk on, but that could change if it sticks around long enough to solidify.

Eruptions in the Home Reef are located in one of the world’s most active volcanic areas.

It can take centuries, decades or sometimes just a couple of years for a volcano to erupt and form an island.

This time, the new island looks like an almost perfect circle poking out about 50 feet above the ocean’s surface. It’s big enough to fit 6.5 standard football fields.

How long the developing island will survive is another question. Tonga’s Late‘iki volcano created an island that disappeared after two months in 2020. NASA says that same volcano had previously produced an island that remained for 25 years.

The islands often don’t live long because of erosion. The minerals that turn them into islands slowly return to the sea beds, which will then create new islands in the future.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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