Eruption of underwater volcano creates new island off Japan coast

·3 min read
Eruption of underwater volcano creates new island off Japan coast
Eruption of underwater volcano creates new island off Japan coast

Composed of thousands of islands, Japan has now added one more to its makeup after the recent eruption of a submarine volcano.

The new land mass was detected by the Japan Coast Guard two days after its Aug. 13 formation. The island, a result of an eruption from the undersea Fukutoku-Okanoba volcano, is located about 1,200 kilometres south of Tokyo, near Iwo Jima.

The newly minted island is quite small in size, at just one kilometre in diameter, but officials think the eruption is still ongoing. Japan’s Meteorological Agency issued smoke and ash warnings for the area while it keeps an eye on the volcanic activity.

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New Japan island/Japan Coast Guard
New Japan island/Japan Coast Guard

(Japan Coast Guard)

As a result of the blast the coast guard reported seeing plumes of steam and gas extending more than 15 kilometres into the sky. As well, it saw parts of pumice created by the eruption floating across a 60-kilometre-wide area of the ocean. The coast guard eventually discovered the crescent-shape of the new island.

According to Forbes, authorities suspect the entire caldera of Fukutoku-Okanoba may eventually rise above the surface of the water.

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However, the new discovery may not be permanent. New islands verified in 1904, 1914, and 1986 all disappeared soon after. The most recent of the islands had a lifespan of about two months because of erosion from waves and currents.

If the island is lasting, there could be geopolitical complications because it’s situated in close proximity to Japan's southernmost islet of Ogasawara or Bonin Island chain. Japan may then be prompted to enlarge its boundaries, though by a relatively small amount (perhaps a few hundred metres). However, local media reported that this option is unlikely even if the island stays afloat.

New Japan island/Japan Coast Guard
New Japan island/Japan Coast Guard

(Japan Coast Guard)

Some islands have become established. For example, in 2013, a volcanic island named Niijima had expanded so much that it amalgamated with a neighbouring land mass -- resulting in “Snoopy Island." While the resemblance to the cartoon figure has long diminished, the island now known as Nishino Shima is still there, and as of 2020, was still expanding.

Scientists say the fate of the new island will be determined by its composition. If discovered to be made up of ash and rock fragments, then odds are it won't survive the ocean elements.

But since the country's meteorological agency suspects the volcanic eruption is still ongoing, then it could generate sufficient lava flow to establish a more durable land mass.

Thumbnail courtesy of Japan Coast Guard.

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