Undersea volcano erupts near Tonga

Blogging on EARTH

One of Tonga's submarine volcanoes is awake again, sending spectacular plumes of smoke, ash and steam high into the sky. MSNBC has video here.

A team of Tongan scientists headed out today to investigate the eruption, located between the twin volcanic islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai, part of a cluster of dozens of undersea volcanoes about 10 kilometers off the island of Tongatapu. Tonga's 170 islands are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The eruption, which has been ongoing since Monday, was initially heralded by a series of earthquakes.

Tonga's volcanoes also made the news in 2006, when the submarine volcano Home Reef created a temporary island — later swallowed by the sea — and produced pumice rafts that floated for months to Fiji and Vanuatu, reaching eastern Australia by the following April.

Tonga officials say the current eruption poses no danger to the islanders, and trade winds are blowing the gas and steam away from the islands. Pumice erupted from the volcano is already on its way to Fiji.

Carolyn Gramling
Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 08:00