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A volcanic eruption has created a new island off Japan, but it may not last

by Michael Nguyen
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Undersea Volcanic Island Formation

A volcanic eruption occurring just off the southern coast of Iwo Jima, known as Ioto in Japan, has given rise to a nascent island in recent weeks. This undersea volcano, previously unnamed, commenced a series of eruptions on October 21st, attracting attention due to the formation of this diminutive landmass. However, experts are cautious about the island’s longevity.

Within a span of ten days, volcanic ash and rocks accumulated on the shallow seabed, culminating in the emergence of a new island measuring approximately 100 meters (328 feet) in diameter and towering as high as 20 meters (66 feet) above sea level. This remarkable transformation was reported by Yuji Usui, an analyst within the Japan Meteorological Agency’s volcanic division.

While heightened volcanic activity near Iwo Jima has been observed, and similar undersea eruptions have taken place in recent years, the creation of a new island is considered a noteworthy occurrence. Nevertheless, the volcanic activity in the area has since subsided, causing the freshly formed island to diminish in size. Its fragile constitution, susceptible to erosion by waves, has contributed to this reduction.

Experts are currently engaged in a comprehensive analysis of the island’s evolution, including the examination of deposited materials. The potential durability of the island hinges on whether it is primarily composed of lava or possesses properties more resilient than typical volcanic rocks, such as pumice. As Yuji Usui points out, the island’s future remains uncertain, and its existence may be fleeting.

It is worth noting that previous instances of undersea volcanic activity and seismic events have led to the formation of new islands. In 2013, an eruption near Nishinoshima in the Pacific Ocean, south of Tokyo, resulted in the creation of a new island, which continued to expand during a decade-long eruption. Similarly, in 2013, a small island surfaced following a massive 7.7-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Pakistan. In 2015, a new island emerged as a consequence of a month-long eruption from a submarine volcano near Tonga.

Japan, with its proximity to the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” is home to approximately 111 of the world’s 1,500 active volcanoes, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Iwo Jima holds historical significance as the site of intense World War II battles, most notably the iconic photograph taken by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal depicting the raising of the flag atop Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945, which came to symbolize the Pacific War and the valor of the U.S. Marines.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Undersea Volcanic Island Formation

What caused the formation of the new island off Japan?

The formation of the new island off Japan was caused by an undersea volcanic eruption, which began on October 21st, 2023, near the southern coast of Iwo Jima (known as Ioto in Japan).

How large is the newly formed island?

The newly formed island measures approximately 100 meters (328 feet) in diameter and rises as high as 20 meters (66 feet) above sea level.

Is there concern about the longevity of the new island?

Yes, experts have expressed caution about the island’s longevity. The island’s fragile composition, susceptible to erosion by waves, has led to a reduction in its size since its formation. Its future depends on its material composition, whether it primarily consists of lava or more durable substances than typical volcanic rocks like pumice.

Have similar undersea volcanic eruptions led to the creation of new islands in the past?

Yes, similar events have occurred in the past. In 2013, an eruption near Nishinoshima in the Pacific Ocean resulted in the formation of a new island, which continued to expand during a decade-long eruption. Additionally, a small island surfaced after a massive 7.7-magnitude earthquake in Pakistan in 2013, and a new island emerged as a result of a month-long eruption from a submarine volcano off the coast of Tonga in 2015.

How many active volcanoes are there in Japan?

Japan is home to approximately 111 of the world’s 1,500 active volcanoes, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. This high number is due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire.”

What is the historical significance of Iwo Jima?

Iwo Jima played a crucial role in World War II and was the site of intense battles, including the iconic photograph taken by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal depicting the raising of the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. This image became a symbol of the Pacific War and the valor of the U.S. Marines.

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