Earth  ID: 4726

New Island forms in Tonga (Updated)

The evolution of the newly-erupted "surtseyan" island (~ 180 hectares in area) in the Kingdom of Tonga in the Southwestern Pacific is documented in a time-lapse sequences of perspective views using a time-series of DigitalGlobe WorldView images from just after the eruption ended in late January 2015 until March 2018. These meter-resolution views were generated using Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) created by the NASA- led science team using stereo-pairs of DigitalGlobe Worldview images, and have allowed the erosional history of this unique island to be studied from a never-before-possible spaceborne perspective. The impact of marine abrasion on the somewhat fragile volcanic-ash landscapes is evident as the southern and southeastern margins of the new island, informally known as Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai (HTHH), recede, while deposition of a widening isthmus grows to the northeast.

Research results from NASA-funded science team led by James B. Garvin (NASA GSFC), Daniel A. Slayback (SSAI), Vicki Ferrini (Columbia) in the AGU's Geophysical Research Letters journal suggest the island's lifetime may be extended for another 25-30 years if geochemical fortification continues to protect key regions. The HTHH island is the first surtseyan eruption-based island to have persisted as "new land" for more than 6 months since Surtsey erupted near Iceland in 1963. Studies of the landscape evolution of pristine volcanic islands of this variety previously relied on a combination of aerial photography, field mapping, and laboratory sample analysis, but this new work enables an optimized approach via advanced satellite optical and radar imaging in combination with ship-based bathymetric mapping. Results of this work can be applied to understanding numerous small volcanic landforms on Mars whose formation may have been in shallow-water environments during epochs when persistent surface water was present.

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Visualization Credits

Lead Visualizer:
Cindy Starr (GST)

James Garvin (NASA, Chief Scientist Goddard)
Daniel A. Slayback (SSAI)
Vicki Ferrini (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University)

Project Support:
Eric Sokolowsky (GST)
Joycelyn Thomson Jones (NASA/GSFC)
Leann Johnson (GST)

Technical Support:
Ian Jones (ADNET)
Laurence Schuler (ADNET)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Science Paper:
Garvin J. B. et al. (GRL 45, no. 8, pp. 3445–3453;

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Data Used:
WorldView-2 © 2015 DigitalGlobe
Observed Data - DigitalGlobe - 21-Feb-2015, 27-Apr-2015, 02-Sep-2015, 17-Nov-2015, 22-Dec-2015
WorldView-3 © 2015 DigitalGlobe
Observed Data - DigitalGlobe - 21-Apr-2015, 06-Jun-2015, 25-Jul-2015
WorldView-2 © 2016 DigitalGlobe
Observed Data - DigitalGlobe - 02-Sep-2016
WorldView-3 © 2016 DigitalGlobe
Observed Data - DigitalGlobe - 10-Apr-2016, 18-May-2016
WorldView-2 © 2017 DigitalGlobe
Observed Data - DigitalGlobe - 20-May-2017, 29-Jun-2017, 19-Sep-2017
WorldView-2 © 2010 DigitalGlobe
Observed Data - DigitalGlobe - 11-Sep-2010
Pléiades-1A © 2015 CNES, Distribution Airbus DS
Observed Data - Distribution Airbus DS - 19-Jan-2015, 08-May-2015
Worldview-2 © 2018 DigitalGlobe
Observed Data - DigitalGlobe - 20-Mar-2018
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

DLESE >> Geology
DLESE >> Structural geology
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Solid Earth >> Volcanoes
SVS >> Hyperwall
SVS >> Volcanic Islands
NASA Science >> Earth

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version