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Underwater Volcanic Eruption Gives Birth to New Island

Newly formed island in the Pacific, a result of an underwater volcanic eruption near Iwo Jima
A newly formed island in the Pacific, the result of an underwater volcanic eruption near Iwo Jima. Credit: Earthquake Research Institute, University of Tokyo

A new island was born in the Pacific Ocean after an underwater volcano erupted on October 30th. This explosion sent big chunks of rock flying into a heap near Japan’s Iwo Jima island.

A plane from the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun noticed the initial signs of the eruption in the southern part of the Izu-Ogasawara arc about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) south of Tokyo around midday local time.

There were explosions happening every few minutes as super hot melted rock merged with the water below, tossing large rocks more than 160 feet (50 meters) into the air.

Underwater eruption at two spots

The underwater eruption made its way to the ocean’s surface in at least two spots, as reported by experts from the University of Tokyo. These explosions happened only at the very bottom of Iwo Jima.

Slightly north of where the explosion took place, rocks piled up, shaping a circular and rough island about 330 feet (100 meters) wide. The water surrounding this new island had changed color and had lots of pumice, which is a kind of rock with lots of tiny holes that forms during large volcanic eruptions.

The researchers stated, “Floating pumice and discolored water occur from the entire periphery of the island, suggesting that magma is erupting from this location.” They also noted that the rocks on the island had a circular pattern, but there was no sign of a crater on the surface.

Phreatic eruptions

The eruptions, known as phreatic eruptions, involve steam and volcanic material exploding at the surface. They happen when water meets super hot magma, lava, rocks, or other scorching stuff.

When these eruptions occur underwater, the volcanic material from the seabed turns into solid rock instantly. Because of these regular eruptions, Iwo Jima has been rising more than 3.3 feet (1 meter) each year. This makes it one of the fastest-growing caldera volcanoes globally.

Frequent volcanic tremors

Before the recent eruption in the Pacific Ocean, there were volcanic tremors that began on October 21st and happened every two minutes until October 30th.

An outflow of molten rock underwater likely led to an already existing mound of solidified rock breaking through the water’s surface to create the new island.

Setsuya Nakada, a retired professor who is an expert in volcanoes at the University of Tokyo, explained this to the newspaper.

The eruption has not yet ended, and because volcanic rock is continually being added to the newly formed island, it might help protect it from wearing away quickly.

Previous volcanic eruptions

In a previous eruption in July 2022 on the southeastern coast of Iwo Jima, magma erupted from a vent for the first time, alongside ash and steam explosions. Researchers mentioned that the eruption’s location is almost identical as the one in 2022. This implies a revival of magma activity on Iwo Jima.

We’re not sure how long this current eruption will continue, but there’s a chance that the new island might connect with Iwo Jima.

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