Thursday 21 November 2013

Volcano creates new island in the west Pacific.

A volcano has created a new island off the shore of Nishinoshima, a remote and uninhabited island Belonging to Japan, which is about 1000 km south of Tokyo and about 1600 km north of Guam. The island is about 200 m in diameter. It is unclear exactly when the island first appeared, but on Wednesday 20 November 2013 the Japan Coast Guard issued a warning about smoke and ash issuing from the new island (aircraft need to avoid volcanic ash as it melts in their engines, forming a glassy substance), and TV footage of an eruption on the island has subsequently emerged.

Steam issuing from the new volcanic island on Wednesday 21 November 2013. Japan Coast Guard.

Nishinishima lies on he boundary between the Pacific and Philippine Plates, where the Pacific Plate is passing beneath the Philippine Plate as it is subducted into the Earth. As the Pacific Plate is subducted it is melted by the heat and pressure of the planet's interior. The lighter fractions of this melted material then rise through the overlying Philippine  Plate as magma, fueling the volcanoes of the various islands and island groups that lie along the boundary.

The approximate location of the new island. Google Maps.

While the island can accurately be described as new, it is not evidence of a new volcano, rather a new vent on the side of the main Nishinishima volcano. It is unlikely to remain as a new island. Most probably the bulk of the material is poorly consolidated ash and cinders, which will be quickly eroded away. If the vent does start to produce more permanent rock-forming lava then this will be more resilient to erosion, but in this case the island is likely to grow and become attached to the Nishinishima mainland.

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