Activity on newly emerged Japanese island picks up – Niijima, new images and video


Volcanic activity along the western edge of the Pacific “Ring of Fire” gave rise to a new island in late November 2013. The new island is in the Ogasawara Islands, part of the Volcano Island arc,  about 1 000 kilometers (600 miles) south of Tokyo in waters considered part of Japanese territory. It was still erupting and growing in mid-December 2013 and activity has apparently picked up in strength again.

The new island, named Niijima, rose up out of the sea during a volcanic eruption first reported on November 20, 2013. Niijima sits about 500 meters from Nishino-shima, another volcanic island that last erupted and expanded in 1973–74. The two islands are located at approximately 27°14’ North latitude and 140°52’ East longitude, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the nearest inhabited island.

Scientists believe Niijima and Nishino-Jima might merge together.

In the first few days after the eruption, scientists speculated that the islet might not last. New islands like those recently formed off of Pakistan and in the Red Sea can naturally sink back below the water line as they are eroded by wave action that carries away the loose tephra, or rock fragments. Some subsidence can also occur from the simple weight of gravity and the cooling of the hot volcanic rock.

But according to news reports in early December 2013, scientists from the Japanese Meteorological Agency now think the island is large enough to survive for at least several years, if not permanently. By early December, Niijima had grown to 56 000 square kilometers (13.8 acres), about three times its initial size. It stands 20 to 25 meters above the sea level. (EO)

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image on December 8, 2013. The water around the island is discolored by volcanic minerals and gases and by seafloor sediment stirred up by the ongoing volcanic eruption. A faint plume, likely steam and other gases, appears in white puffs above the center and southwest portion of the island. Image credit: Earth Observatory

Yesterday, VolcanoDiscovery reported that activity continues at the new island and has apparently picked up in strength again. Lava flows have created a significant new delta of new land during the past 3 days, enlarging the island to a current width measuring approximately 400 (E-W) by 300 (N-S) meters.

The new island at Nishino-Shima with the first cone (November 21-25, yellow), and the two lava deltas that formed in late November – December 10 (right) and the second delta (l) that formed during December 10 – 13. Image credit: Japanese Coast Guard

Images of the new island. Image credit: Japan Coast Guard

The Japanese Coast Guard posted an interesting video yesterday and report that also shows that sporadic strombolian explosions from the active vent continue along with lava effusion: 

Video courtesy of Japanese Coast Guard

Below are two aerial photos of Nishino-shima and Niijima taken by the Japanese Coast Guard on December 1and December 13, 2013.

Image credit: Japanese Coast Guard (December 1, 2013)

Image credit: Japanese Coast Guard (December 13, 2013)

Featured image credit: Japanese Coast Guard

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  1. Since new island has emerged Japan does not have to go to war with China over the control of a tiny, uninhabited island chain in the East China Sea. Especially since Scientists believe Niijima and Nishino-Jima might merge together.

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