'Ring of Fire' Volcano Births New Island
But it's likely to have a short life span
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2015 6:45 AM CST
In this photo, taken Jan. 14, 2015, a volcano erupts near Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean.   (AP Photo/New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
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(Newser) – Mother Earth has given birth to new land. An island has formed in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where a volcano has been erupting since Dec. 20. Tonga's Ministry of Lands, Survey, and Natural Resources tells the Weather Network the volcano is erupting from two vents. One is spewing ash and rock onto an uninhabited island; the other is underwater. An expert who came within a mile of the new island, 40 miles northwest of the capital, says it's roughly a square mile in size. But as it's made of loose scoria—a dark volcanic rock—he says it should erode away within a few months once the volcano quiets, the AP reports.

If it were formed from lava, it might be more durable. Still, "it's quite an exciting site, you get to see the birth of an island," the expert says. Ministry officials say rocks are being thrown some 1,300 feet into the air, while the volcano is sending steam into the atmosphere. Bits of ash are now climbing about 6,000 feet, down from 30,000 feet last week. That means planes diverted from the area can now pass over safely. However, ash and acidic rain are still showering anything in a 6-mile radius, killing tree leaves on neighboring islands, ABC Australia reports. The volcano last erupted over five years ago.