Niijima, The New Volcanic Island In Japan Isn't Sinking, As Some Predicted — It's Growing
When volcanic activity under a Japanese island chain sprouted new earth last month, the government was hesitant to name the inchoate land mass. It was vulnerable to powerful ocean tides, which have been known to swamp new islands before. "This has happened before and in some cases the islands disappeared," said a national spokesman, Yoshihide Suga. But, he added, "if it becomes a full-fledged island, we would be happy to have more territory."
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Now, the island appears not to be going anywhere. In fact, according to satellite images reviewed by Japanese scientists, it looks like it's growing. "As the volcanic eruption is still continuing, we don't know the fate of the island," Tomoyuki Kano, an official with Japan's meteorological agency told AFP. "But it won't disappear in days or weeks, and will probably last for several years ... unless a huge volcanic eruption happens and blows it apart." The Japanese were confident enough to give it a name: Niijima.
The island is about 600 miles south of Tokyo on the southern tip of the Bonin Islands, along the Ring of Fire where seismic activity is common. Seventy-five percent of the world's volcanos are in the Ring of Fire. As the island was forming in a cloud of spewing lava and steam, the Japanese news station captured footage of the eruption. The island then grew to about 660 feet wide. Now Niijima is almost 20 square acres, NBC News reported. You can see the NASA satellite photos of the island here. "We are still seeing a wisp of smoke and some ash coming from the islet, and occasionally there is lava belching forth, so the islet may grow even bigger," Kano said.
The sea births new land more often than you might think. Just a couple of months before Niijima arrived, a deadly earthquake in Pakistan pushed up a piece of mud they called Zalzala Koh. But as of October, reports suggested it was doomed to sink back into the abyss. And Iceland was gifted the scientifically famous island of Surtsey in 1963. Since then, the land has remained virtually untouched by human development so that biologists could observe the methods of flora and fauna expansion. The wind has carried seeds there, and small animals have floated over on vessels of seaweed.
NASA scientists who reviewed the photos from its Advanced Land Imager, confirmed the Japanese agency's suggestion that the island will likely keep growing. "The water around the island is discolored by volcanic minerals and gases and by seafloor sediment stirred up by the ongoing volcanic eruption," they said. "The faint white puffs above the center and southwest portion of the island are likely steam and other volcanic gases associated with the eruption."
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