February 7, 2023

SCIENCE: An Island Near Tonga That Emerged From The Ocean In 2015 Was Teeming With Unique Life-Forms, But The 21st Century's Largest Underwater Volcanic Eruption Completely Obliterated It.

History Origins published January 29, 2023: The Island Disappeared While Scientists Are Researching Life on a New Island.

When an underwater volcano erupted in 2015, the island of Hunga Tonga – Hunga HaÊ»apai emerged from the ocean, creating a new island. With a life span of only seven years from its rise to its sinking, this island would live fast and die young, but in these short few years a group of scientists had time to scan the new island for signs of life.

"Such volcanic eruptions occur all over the world, but they usually do not form islands," said Nick Dragone, a CIRES doctoral student working on the island. “We had an incredibly unique opportunity at our disposal. No one had ever studied microorganisms in such an island system comprehensively at such an early stage.”

The opportunity to study a brand new island gave Dragone and his colleagues a "unique natural laboratory" where they could study the earliest stages of an ecosystem's development, even before plants and animals arose. They were looking for the microscopic island inhabitants, and to find them, they took soil samples, which were then analyzed using DNA sequencing.

written by Ben Turner
Tuesday January 30, 2023

The island was destroyed by the same volcano that formed it seven years before.

An island near Tonga that emerged from the ocean in 2015 was teeming with unique life-forms, but the 21st century's largest volcanic eruption completely obliterated it, a new study has revealed.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai island emerged from the Pacific Ocean due to volcanic activity in 2014 and 2015. Its short, seven-year existence gave scientists a rare window to study how life develops on new land masses, until the devastating Tonga eruption in 2022 blasted it away.

And the scientists were surprised by what they found. Instead of the bacteria families that they expected would first colonize the island, the researchers found a weird group of microbes that likely came from deep underground. The researchers published their findings Jan. 11 in the journal mBio

"We didn't see what we were expecting," Nick Dragone(opens in new tab), the lead study author and a doctoral student in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, said in a statement(opens in new tab). "We thought we'd see organisms you find when a glacier retreats, or cyanobacteria, more typical early colonizer species — but instead we found a unique group of bacteria that metabolize sulfur and atmospheric gases."

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, which was named after the two islands it sprouted up between, began forming underwater in December 2014 after the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai submarine volcano and emerged above the ocean's surface in January 2015, eventually forming a 0.7-square-mile large (1.9 kilometers squared) island. According to the researchers, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai was the third landmass in the last 150 years to appear and persist for more than a year, and the first in tropical regions — giving them a rare opportunity for further study.

To find which microbes were making the new island their home, the researchers collected 32 soil samples from various non-vegetated surfaces — ranging from sea level to the 394-foot-tall (120 meters) summit of the island's crater — before extracting and analyzing the DNA found within.

Usually, scientists expect new islands to become populated with bacteria found in the ocean or in bird droppings. But the most prevalent bacteria around the volcano's cone were those that chowed down on sulfur and hydrogen sulfide gas; and they may have drifted to the island's surface through underground volcanic networks. Of the top 100 bacteria picked up by the sequencing, the researchers were unable to classify 40% into a known bacterial family.

"One of the reasons why we think we see these unique microbes is because of the properties associated with volcanic eruptions: lots of sulfur and hydrogen sulfide gas, which are likely fueling the unique taxa we found," Dragone said in the statement. "The microbes were most similar to those found in hydrothermal vents, hot springs like Yellowstone, and other volcanic systems. Our best guess is the microbes came from those types of sources."

Eventually, the volcano that had birthed the island also became its destroyer. On Jan. 15, 2022, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted again, exploding with a force greater than 100 simultaneous Hiroshima bombs to send a column of ash, island chunks and steam halfway into space.

The eruption ended the researchers' studies into the island, but the short-lived landmass gave scientists a blueprint for future research.

"We were all expecting the island to stay. In fact, the week before the island exploded we were starting to plan a return trip." Dragone said. "We are of course disappointed that the island is gone, but now we have a lot of predictions about what happens when islands form. If something formed again, we would love to go there and collect more data. We would have a game plan of how to study it."
Cosmos Lab published January 26, 2023: 5 MINUTES AGO: The Tonga Volcano Is About To Crack Open Earth!

When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted on January 15, 2022, it triggered a tsunami that travelled all the way around the world and a sonic boom that went around the world not once, but twice. The underwater eruption in the South Pacific Ocean also ejected a massive plume of water vapor into the stratosphere, enough to fill over 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. The sheer amount of water vapor could be enough to affect Earth’s global average temperature. More than one year after the underwater volcano eruption, scientists are still analyzing the impacts of the violent blast, and they have just found out that it could do something terrifying to the entire planet. What will this Volcano do, and how far-reaching will the consequences be? Stay around until the very end because the most recent finding concerning the Tonga Volcano is something that you don't want to miss out on.

When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted with colossal force on Saturday, Jan. 15, at 5:10 p.m. local time, Francis Siua, a Catholic seminary student in Fiji, heard a loud boom and wondered why the earth seemed to be rattling. Thunderstorm? Earthquake? Cyclone? No, he quickly discovered: it was a volcano not far from his childhood home in Tonga. He remembered being at home when the volcano erupted a few years ago. This time, he suspected something far worse based on what he could sense from 400 miles away. He called his mother on Tongatapu, the main island. She responded with a few details from a terrifying scene. A tsunami alert. Thick dark clouds. A hailstorm of black rocks, bouncing off cars like marbles on tile. “It was all falling from the sky, and it freaked her out,” he said. “It was the first time she’d ever seen anything like that.”

Astrum published January 22, 2022: Aftermath of the Biggest Volcano Eruption Ever Caught on Tape from Space - Tonga. The live aftermath of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai Jan 15 2022 volcano eruption.
BBC News published November 21, 2022: Volcanic eruption in Tonga reshaped Pacific seafloor.

Scientists have discovered the true ferocity of a huge volcanic eruption off the coast of Tonga in January.

When the underwater mountain erupted, it sent ash and water-vapour half-way to space, and generated tsunami waves across the globe.

A survey by New Zealand and UK vessels has now fully mapped the area around the Pacific volcano.

It shows the seafloor was scoured and sculpted by violent debris flows out to a distance of over 80km (50 miles).
BBC News reports that, "The eruption produced one of the biggest atmospheric explosions in history. And the impression left on the sea floor gives a sense of its violent energy. Scientists calculated that some ten cubic kilometers of material has been displaced. Equivalent to the volume of 4,000 Egyptian pyramids." (emphasis mine)

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