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New island emerges near Japan after underwater volcanic explosions

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New island emerges near Japan after underwater volcanic explosions

by Clyde Hughes
Washington DC (UPI) Nov 9, 2023
A new small island the diameter of a football field emerged from the Pacific Ocean near mainland Japan in late October after underwater volcano eruptions, a Japanese researcher said on Wednesday.

The small, rocky island appeared about a half-mile off the Iwoto Island coast, formerly known as Iwo Jima, Fukashi Maeno, associate professor at the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute, said. Maeno said he confirmed volcanic activity in the area last month.

Plumes could be seen, and masses and rock can be seen on the land during a research flyby of the island, located about 750 miles from Tokyo. Maeno said pumice stones were spotted floating in waters around the island along with seawater color change, adding to the proof that the island's creation is a result of volcanic activity.

Magma had been flowing underwater from an erupting sunken volcano, called a phreatomagmatic eruption, for some time, but Oct. 30 marked the first time the lava from those eruptions emerged from the water, according to Setsuya Nakada, a professor emeritus of volcanology at the University of Tokyo.

"In an earlier stage, a vertical jet of black color, debris -- which is a solidified magma -- and water gushed upward, " Nakada said. "Since Nov. 3, the eruption started changing and the emission of volcanic ash continued explosively."

Nakada said the pumice that makes up the island erodes easily but said the island can remain in place if the volcano continues to spew lava that protects it.

"The areas that don't have lava could be scraped away. So if more lava comes out and covers the area, I think that part will remain forever," he said.

A similar phenomenon took place in 2013 when a new island, that came to be called Niijima, formed after undersea explosions breached the surface at Nishino-Shima in the Pacific Ocean.

Nakada said the new island could take a similar path.

"There is a possibility that the island could merge with Iwo Jima if the eruption continues," said Nakada.

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