New Island In Japan Merges With Neighbor As Volcano Keeps Erupting

By Ben Wolford on April 9, 2014 12:45 PM EDT

This photo of the conjoined islands was taken recently by the Japan Coast Guard. (Photo: Japan Coast Guard)
This photo of the conjoined islands was taken recently by the Japan Coast Guard. The two volcano cones are visible and are still erupting. (Photo: Japan Coast Guard)

A new volcanic island that formed in November in the Pacific Ocean has spilled over onto a neighboring island as fresh terra firma continues to bubble up from the depths. Japan claimed the new earth because it belongs to a volcanic island group to which Iwo Jima, of World War II infamy, also belongs, about 620 miles south of Tokyo.

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Last week, NASA Earth Observatory reported that the new island, Nijima, had gobbled up its closest neighbor, Nishinoshima. "Four months later, the new and the old are now one island, and the volcanic eruption shows no sign of abating," the space agency reported. Japan's Coast Guard has been posting incredible aerial images of the craggy, steaming island.

When it first emerged, Nijima was about 660 feet across and roughly circular. Since merging with Nishinoshima, it's about two-thirds of a mile (just over one kilometer) across, and its two volcanic cones rise nearly 200 feet above sea level. Nishinoshima was formed by eruption in the 1970s. "The Niijima portion of the island is now larger than the original Nishinoshima, and the merged island is slightly more than 1,000 meters across," according to NASA. "Volcanic lava flows are reported to be most active now on the south end of the island."

A new island in Japan continues to erupt and recently spilled over onto a neighboring island. (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory)

A new island in Japan continues to erupt and recently spilled over onto a neighboring island. (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory)

The Japanese government was cautious in November about naming the island, when a spokesman was quoted as saying, "This has happened before and in some cases the islands disappeared." But he added that "If it becomes a full-fledged island, we would be happy to have more territory." It appears that this new island is here to stay. Still no word though from the government what the name of the converged island will be.

This remote island group is known as the Bonin Islands, which lie along the Ring of Fire and the six-mile-deep Izu-Ogasawara Trench. In World War II, these islands were the setting for intense battles between the U.S. and Japan for supremacy in the Pacific.

Nishinoshima and Nijima form one of the ridges of the caldera — a kind of volcano sometimes formed after an eruption — that created them. Eruptions there continue, according to NASA, as evidenced by fluffy white plumes of volcanic ash that belch intermittently from the surface. Scientists say they indicate the eruption is taking place in the form of lava bubbles that are rising "in pulses."

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