New Island in the Pacific

Eruption at Nishino-shima in the Pacific Produces a New Island

The new island of Niijima at Nishino-shima, south of Japan, seen on November 21, 2013. Image: Japan Coast Guard

Somehow as November slipped by, I missed marking the 50th anniversary of the eruption at Surtsey off the coast of Iceland. This eruption started as a submarine one that was large and sustained enough to produce a new island in the North Atlantic. These sorts of events are fairly rare. Most of the time a new volcanic island emerges, it is quickly eroded by wave action. This is due to the nature of the material that constructs those early volcanic island, that being volcanic tephra. The island is more-or-less a pile of loose debris piling up until it reaches the surface. In order for the island to have much lasting power, it needs to emerge from the sea and erupt for long enough to start producing more resistant lava flows that will keep the waves from washing away the island.

Why do I bring this up now? Well, it seems we have an eruption like Surtsey occurring in the middle of the Pacific Ocean south of Japan. A new eruption at Nishino-shima has breached the surface and started to produce a small island (see above) of black volcanic tephra. The new island (being called Niijima) still looks small, with some reports putting the island at a cozy 200 meters (650 feet) across and 20 meters (65 feet) high — likely not something that would survive for long in the rough Pacific if it only grows to this size. The plume hasn’t been noticeable (at least to me) in any satellite imagery, but that could change some now that the island is above sea level. So far, there isn’t really any hazard for people who live near the remote island, but the Japanese Meteorological Agency has warned ships not to approach the crater. You can see the action in this Japanese Coast Guard video of the eruption, along with some great images of the eruption here. The new vent is just off the shores of another small island and some of the stills included in the news report show those classic “rooster tail” eruptions (see below) that go with these Surtseyan eruptions (named after the aforementioned Iceland event).


“Rooster tails” during the eruption of Niijima at Nishino-shima in Japan, seen on November 20, 2013. Image: Japan Coast Guard.

Nishino-shima is part of a caldera within the aptly-named Volcano Island arc (part of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana volcanic arc). There are a number of caldera along the act including Nishino-shima and the more famous Ioto (Iwo-Jima). The last major eruption from Nishino-shima was exactly 40 years ago, when another small island was produced by the volcano — potentially its only eruption in the last 10,000 years. Since then, discolored water has been spotted in the vicinity, suggesting submarine eruptions or active submarine fumaroles have been going since that 1974 eruption. However, this new activity is apparently the first to break the sea’s surface since those events 40 years ago. If you need something to read, there is a fascinating article at how quickly the new island at Nishino-shima was colonized by plants and arthropods after it formed in 1974 — just shows how quickly life will colonize new land.

I did enjoy finding a news report about how Japan is eager for this island to become a permanent feature as it could expand their territorial waters in the Pacific Ocean. It might take awhile before the volcanic island can be truly declared permanent (and I’m not even sure who does that … the United Nations?) The region has been a site of some dispute with China over territorial island, so Japan has a strong interest in expanding their presence in the region. There isn’t much in the way of people in the Ogasawara Islands (Bonin Islands), but the whole region is a UNESCO natural world heritage site, so tourism is important.



New Island Created by Jebel Zubair Volcano

Surtseyan eruption along the coast of Yemen forms a new island – Today eruption cloud + stain !

Last update: December 30, 2011 at 3:07 pm by By

Jorgen Aabech, a Norvegian volcano enthusiast writing already a long time in his blog, wrote us an email on  December 20 to attract our attention on a probably new eruption of the Jebel Zubair volcano, which is an island formation on the territory of Yemen. Jorgen asked us if we had any mention of earthquakes in the area, which was negative.
When looking at the Modis Terra and Aqua satellite picture on December 20, we saw indeed a very small cloud in the island area, but nothing important to us.  We also followed the Sat24 weather satellite pictures for a while to eventually detect heat on their Infrared images, but also this was negative.  This whole eruption, actually found by the scanning of Jorgen Aalbach (if we are right), was almost forgotten until NASA’s Earth Observatory published a far better satellite picture showing more detail of the eruption. Just like during the Eritrea Nabro eruption, satellite images are the only source in this part of the world (in other words, these countries have other concerns than following an active volcano area all the time)

Update December 30
– NASA Modis Aqua satellite picture is showing more activity today. The quality of the Satellite images differs because of indirect circumstances like high cloud, etc (visual image)


Update December 29 (all other info below).
– As you can see on the picture above, the eruption is still ongoing (white cloud and blue stain)
– It is a pity that nobody was around to make beautiful pictures from this Surtseyan eruption (not too late though – to all nature photographers : take your backpack and travel to Yemen (do not forget to hire some armed guards as the country has still a lot of armed rebels and as almost everyone carries a knife and a gun).

NASA MODIS Aqua December 29 satellite picture showing eruption cloud and stain – courtsey NASA

– The Yemen times, a local Yemenite newspaper (who does not mention the creation of a new island) wrote the following :
The Monitoring Center for the Study of Earthquakes and Volcanoes has reported the presence of light volcanic activity on one of the unpopulated islands of ‘Jabal Al-Zubair’ archipelago, 120 km northwest of Hodeida Governorate. Jamal Sha’alan, the manager of the center said that initial indications are that the volcanic eruption was light and will not pose a threat to marine navigation. Saleh Al-Maflahi, the assistant manager of the center, also confirmed that initial indications of the volcanic eruption are reassuring, saying that the centre has commissioned technical experts to travel to the site of the volcano to conduct studies. The team has installed a seismic monitoring station there to alert them to seismic activity that may be the precursor to volcanic activity, according to Al-Maflahi. “The volcanic activity and rising smoke was witnessed by some visitors,” he said, adding that a good deal of seismic activity had recently taken place. He said that the results of a survey of the area’s volcanic history showed that Jabal Al-Zubair is an active volcanic site, and that it witnessed volcanic activity 187 years ago. In September 2007, a volcano on Jabal Al-Tair Island – 20 km southwest of Al-Zubair and 140 kilometers off Yemen’s western coastline – caused the death of eight Yemeni soldiers in addition to injuring others stationed at a military base. Read the complete article here

Distance from the new created island to “Rugged Island”, part of the Zubair volcano group

The text below is courtesy Jorgen Aabech and a few other sources which are referred to if used

December 19 – Jorgen Aabech wrote in his blog :
A possible eruption occurred at Az Zubair archipelago on 19th December 2011. Fishermen from Salif port city in the west of Yemen reported seeing an eruption with red lava rising to a height of 30 m. This was the first eruption the fisherman can recall from the area. Satellite images showed raised sulphur dioxide emissions close to the volcano on the following day.
On December 19 the NASA Aura/OMI SO² satellite captured a picture that revealed a strong SO² cloud column. This satellite is of great importance to detect remote located volcanoes.

Aura/OMI NASA SO2 satellite image from the December 19 2011 Zubair
 volcano group Surtseyan eruptionAura/OMI NASA SO2 satellite image from the December 19 2011 Zubair volcano group Surtseyan eruption

Surtseyan eruption in Yemen - Image courtesy vulkaner.noSurtseyan eruption in Yemen – Image courtesy

December 20 – Jorgen Aabech Update (based on what he also read in Erik Klemetti Wired corner)
It seems like there is a lot of confusion about exactly where the eruption is taking place. A number of sources put the eruption at Jebel Zubair, another island volcano that is part of an archipelago that last erupted in 1824. Jebel Zubair is just to the south of Jebel at Tair, so looking at the OMI map and the new MODIS image found by Eruptions reader Kirby that looks to have a small plume (see above), it is more likely Jebel Zubair. However, there is still not a lot of information out there on this eruption.

December 22 – Jorgen Aabech
On 19 December a SO2 cloud was detected in an OMI satellite image. MODIS imagery from 20 December shows a plume rising from a submarine eruption about 1.5 km SW of Haycock and N of Rugged (near the N end of the Az-Zubair island group), and about 12 km NE of Jebel Zubair island.
A bathymetric sketch map made in 1973 indicates a water depth of about 100 m in that area.

Yemen TV showed an unstable and bad colored report in their news. We cannot trace whether this report is from this eruption, but it was published as it on You Tube.  It is however hard to believe that the December 19 eruption (no other SO2 traces on the satellite maps) have build the island in only a week. A possibility is that the eruption had started a lot earlier in his submarine phase.

December 28 – Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism program writes :
An eruption from the northern part of the Zubair Group continued during 21-27 December. MODIS imagery from NASA’s satellites on 22 December showed a plume, possibly containing ash, rising from what was thought to be a submarine eruption. Imagery acquired on 23 December from the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s EO-1 satellite showed a new island at the location with a plume rising from it, roughly 500 m N of Rugged Island and more than 500 m in diameter. The island was not present in a similar image acquired on 24 October 2007.

December 28 – NASA Earth Observatory – Proof of a new island
The Picture combination below from NASA Earth Observatory shows the birth of the new island. The cloud picture was acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. A thick plume rises from the island, dark near the bottom and light near the top, perhaps a mixture of volcanic ash and water vapor.

NASA Earth Observatory shows the birth of the new Zubair volcano 
group islandNASA Earth Observatory shows the birth of the new Zubair volcano group island

for more information and updates, go to:

New Canary Island Forming

Undersea volcano about to create new Canary Island

14 November 11

Volcanologists studying an undersea volcano erupting near the island of El Hierro believe that it’s just 70 metres from the surface and may create new land.

Over the past week or so, the geological upheaval in the Canary Islands has caused jets of water to rise more than 20 metres into the air and locals claim to have even seen rocks thrown out of the sea. Measurements taken by researchers show that seething water is significantly warmer than the surrounding sea. The culprit is the Canarian hotspot — the islands are underlain by a deep magma plume that is believed to have first appeared 60 million years ago.

Since July 2011, more than 10,000 small earthquakes have shaken the island of El Hierro and since October they’ve grown significantly stronger, with some surpassing four on the Richter scale. At the start of November, residents in the southern part of the island had to leave their homes after tremors hit the area and supherous gases drifted through. The Canary Islands’ volcanology institute,Involcan, has reported a three-fold increase in carbon dioxide levels.

Since then, however, the quakes have shifted from the south of the island to the north. While the southern tremors occurred at a depth of more than 10km, the northern ones have moved upwards and Spain’s national geographic institute has warned that there could be minor eruptions in or near the El Golfo valley on the northern coast of the island.

For the moment, however, there is no immediate risk of major surface eruption, so locals are canvassing for names for the imminent new territory. Proposed names, according to Spiegel Online, include “The Discovery”, “Atlantis”, and “The Best”.