A new island is forming in the Red Sea about 60 kilometers (40 miles) from the coast of Yemen, on the northern edge of the Zubair Islands. An undersea eruption began in mid-December 2011. Local fishermen reported an eruption near the island of Saba. Satellites captured a white plume rising from the sea, and a pulse of sulfor dioxide. The activity was located on December 23, high-resolution satellite imagery revealed details of the eruption.
SO2 level of Afar and southern Red Sea January 9, 2012 (Source: NASA/AURA/OMI)
Latest satellite image from January 7, 2012, suggests that the eruption has risen nearly completely above water. A plume of steam, other volcanic gases, and ash spews from a distinct cone. The land surrounding the vent has grown, and is now about 530 by 710 meters (1,700 by 2,300 feet) across. Once above water, past eruptions in the Zubair Islands were primarily effusive, with relatively runny lava forming thin lava flows. In contrast to the fragmented rock that forms when lava interacts directly with water, lava that solidifies on land is tough, so this new island is likely to stick around. (Earth Observatory)
Ash plumes from new volcanic island January 7, 2012 (Source: Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.)
The 5-km-long Jebel Zubair Island is the largest of a group of 10 small islands and submerged shoals that rise from a shallow platform in the Red Sea rift. The platform and eruptive vents forming the islands and shoals of the Zubair Group are oriented NNW-SSE, parallel to the rift. An early explosive phase was followed by a brief period of marine erosion, and then by renewed explosive activity accompanied by the extrusion of basaltic pahoehoe lava flows. This latest phase of activity occurred on the morphologically youngest islands of Zubair, Centre Peak, Saba, and Haycock. Historical explosive activity was reported from Saddle Island in the 19th century. Spatter cones and pyroclastic cones were erupted along fissures that form the low spine of Zubair Island. (GVP)
Featured image: NASA - Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.