Volcanic eruption in Japan creates new island

by | Nov 22, 2013 | Biz/Tech

Map of Japanese islands. Creative Commons.

Map of Japanese islands. Creative Commons.

By Kateryna Barnes

A volcanic eruption has birthed a new island in the Pacific Ocean off the eastern coast of Japan.

The tiny island, about 200 metres in diameter, erupted in an area with a high level of seismic activity known as the “Ring of Fire”.  There are about 30 islands in the area, about 1,000 kilometers south of Toyko.

The Japanese coast guard and the Japan Meteorological Agency issued low “near crater” warnings about the Nishinoshima volcano on Wednesday, which last erupted on Sept. 17, 1973.

Video footage of the volcano showed heavy ash, rocks and smoke spewing from the crater.

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In a news conference on Thursday, Yoshihide Suga, chief spokesperson for the government of Japan, said they welcome the newest piece of territory, but they have no plans as of yet to name the new island.

 Suga said they will continue to monitor the island to ensure that the island remains before they proceed to name it.

If the small new island doesn’t disappear, it could play a role in expanding Japan’s territorial claim in the Pacific.  An increase in ocean territory would give Japan more claim to resources in the area.  On Okino Torishima, the Japanese government have been constructing a port on the atoll, in an effort to claim a larger exclusive economic zone.

For the island to remain, the lava would need to harden and the island would have to be large enough to counter erosion from ocean currents.

Pierre Robin, retired professor of geology from the University of Toronto’s Department of Earth Sciences, isn’t convinced that the island will withstand oceanic erosion– it’s too small.

“Occasionally one emerges then gets eroded,” said Robin. “There is nothing unusual about it.”

For a volcano to rise above sea level, it has to come a long ways, he said.

“For a volcano like this to emerge, it must rise approximately two-three kilometres above the sea floor in that area.”

Robin said that every 20-40 years a new island like this will appear, but it tends to be more common off the coast of Japan, since there is more underwater volcanic activity in the area.