A new volcanic island appears off the coast of Japan

An underwater volcanic eruption creates new lands. Will this volcanic island manage to remain in time? Scientists explain what this process is about.

An underwater eruption late last month created a new volcanic island off the coast of Japan. The island is slowly growing as the volcano continues to erupt, spewing magma into the ocean and causing explosions of extremely hot steam. Will it be able to remain in time?

The force of the October eruption sent rocks and lava 50 meters into the air as magma cooled and solidified off the coast of the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. The new island is located about 1.200 kilometers south of mainland Japan and 1 km from Iwo Jima, the island where some of the fiercest battles of World War II took place in the Pacific.

It all happened off the coast of Japan's Ogasawara Islands, a remote archipelago also known as the Bonin Islands. The new Pacific land mass is the youngest of its neighbors. Its exit from the ocean was captured in photographs taken by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on November 1. The JMA has been recording volcanic activity in the area since last year, but the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo confirmed that the eruption that created the island occurred on October 30.

This is how the new volcanic island is being formed

University of Tokyo volcanologist Setsuya Nakada told The Japan Times that the underwater volcanic eruption that created the island began with a "vertical stream of solidified magma"that soared high above the waves.

"In the previous stage, a vertical stream of black debris (i.e. solidified magma) and water flowed upward. Beginning on November 3, the eruption began to change and volcanic ash continued to explode naturally."Nakada said. “Areas without lava can be removed. So if more and more lava erupts and covers that area, I think some of it will stay there forever.”. Areas not covered by hardened lava can be washed away by waves, but if more lava erupts, it can cover the island and prevent it from eroding.

Although the new island appears small, it is part of an underwater volcano with a base diameter of 40 km and a height of more than 2 km. Iwo Jima is part of a 10 km wide caldera formed by the collapse of the volcano's summit. These explosions, called phreatomagmatic eruptions, result from the sudden transformation of seawater into steam upon contact with molten rock. Although the new land mass may expand slightly in the coming days, any rock that is not held together by the lava flow will erode, raising questions about how long the island can survive.

More underwater volcanoes

Scientists estimate that there are more than a million volcanoes submarines in the world, but many of them are probably extinct. Japan is a major hotspot for volcanic activity because it is located in a part of the world known as the "Ring of Fire," which crosses the Pacific Ocean for about 40.000 km and contains two-thirds of the volcanoes active since the last age. of ice. This is one of the geological and geographical factors that makes Japan have so many islands.


  • The Japan Times 2023
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