Submarine eruption detected near Tonga

Submarine eruption detected near Tonga

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A new submarine eruption is taking place about 30 km (18.6 miles) north of Tonga's main island Tongatapu. It seems to have started on January 23, 2017.

According to GeoNet, this volcano has been called 'Submarine Volcano III' in historic reports. Submarine volcanic activity has been noted from this area in 1911; 1923 (steam plumes); 1970 (discolored water); 1989-1999 (small island formed in January 1999) and 2007 (discolored water and felt earthquakes).

The 1999 activity is the best reported, starting with felt earthquakes in late December 1989 and discolored water was noted on January 7, 1999 and an eruption column on the 8th. A volcanic cone was reported above sea level on January 12 and again in the 14th.

Submarine eruption near Tonga January 2017

Credit: USGS/NASA Landsat-8. Acquired January 27, 2017

The eruption seems to be ongoing for over a week as satellite images show first discolored water on January 23. It was discovered by University of Auckland coastal geomorphologist Dr. Murray Ford.

GeoNet volcanologists contacted their colleagues in Tonga and it appears a steam plume may also be present, but the local cloud makes this difficult to ascertain. 

Submarine eruption near Tonga January 2017

Credit: NASA/Terra MODIS. Acquired January 28, 2017

The new eruption is taking place not far away from a new island created during December 2014 / January 2015 eruption.

Submarine volcanic activity is common in the Tonga area and some produce small islands that last for a few days to months. They can be a hazard to shipping, GeoNet warned. 

Featured image: Submarine eruption north of Tonga. Credit: NASA Terra/MODIS. Acquired January 28, 2017. Edit: TW

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