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Erupting underwater volcano in Tonga

Location of the eruptions

NUKU’ALOFA-February 12: 11.35am (Nuku’alofa Times/Sources): There is a possibility of another new island forming here in Tonga following confirmation that an underwater volcano eruption is happening close to Tonga.

New satellite images show this happening.

Photos of the eruption reveal a plume of turquoise colour bursting from the dark blue sea.

The Daily Mail said the discolouration is likely caused by gas, rocks and volcanic fluid firing from the volcano.

The sheer force of the eruption may have also thrown sediment up from the ocean’s floor.

The eruption likely began around January 23, according to other images captured by Nasa satellites.

“It may continue for some days or weeks, and an island may form temporarily,” Dr Martin Jutzeler, a University of Tasmania geologist who studies underwater eruptions, said.

“However, new volcanic islands are easily eroded by wave action.”

The erupting volcano was stumbled upon by University of Auckland geologist Dr Murray Ford.

Dr Ford was reviewing satellite images of a young island near Tonga when he spotted a turquoise plume in the ocean.

That plume was coming from a seamount located 20 miles (33km) from Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu.

Underwater eruptions are relatively common in the area, which is part of the Tonga-Kermadec volcanic arc and the Pacific Ring of Fire.

This plume appears to have originated from a seamount that geologists call ‘Submarine Volcano III’.

It has shown signs of activity in 1911, 1923, 1970, 1990, and 2007.

Crater lake on Tonga's newest island formed in 2015 after underwater volcanic eruptions

Crater lake on Tonga’s newest island formed in 2015 after underwater volcanic eruptions

NASA warns that underwater volcanic eruptions can pose a hazard to ships.

“Ash from volcanic eruptions on land are a well-known threat to airplanes, and underwater eruptions can likewise pose a hazard to ships,” it said in a statement on the new island.

“Some underwater eruptions produce rafts of light, porous rock called pumice that float on the sea surface and can clog ship engines.”

Underwater volcanoes form when tectonic plates move over ‘hot spots’ in the ocean where underground rock melts to form magma.

This magma rises to the surface and becomes lava.

The lava rapidly cools, solidifies, and builds mounds which break the surface of the ocean.

Most islands produced by volcanic eruptions erode sometime after formation, but some are permanent.

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