Nishinoshimas and the birth of a new Island

Photograph taken by the Japanese coast guard during the early stages of the 1973-74 eruption.

Photograph taken by the Japanese coast guard during the early stages of the 1973-74 eruption.

If I am counting right this will be the birth of the fourth island in under two years. Two in Jebel Al-Zubair, one in Indonesia (that I for the life of me can’t remember the name of) and now Nishinoshima is in the process of birthing its second island in 40 years. It is also interesting that it takes place within a week of the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Surtsey.

But first off, it is not the volcanic caldera island of Nishinoshima that is erupting, it is the volcanic caldera island of Nishinoshima that is erupting! Confused? Me too!

The non-erupting Nishinoshima is a part of the Oki Islands in the Korea Sea, that Nishinoshima is part of a Somma volcano that used to be a massive stratovolcano, beside it is the remnant of the Dogojima stratovolcano. Both the destroyed Somma-volcano and the Dogojima is situated within yet another caldera structure (Dozen). For now, let us leave this volcanically highly interesting part of the world and go to the erupting Nishinoshima.

The Erupting Nishinoshima

Comparison of bathymetric maps around Nishino-shima before and after 1973 eruption. Bathymetric map after the eruption is based on 1:50,000 basic map of the sea "Nishino-shima" (documented in 1992; Japan Coast Guard, 1993) while that prior to the eruption is based on mapping in 1911 (Ossaka, 1973).

Comparison of bathymetric maps around Nishino-shima before and after 1973 eruption. Bathymetric map after the eruption is based on 1:50,000 basic map of the sea “Nishino-shima” (documented in 1992; Japan Coast Guard, 1993) while that prior to the eruption is based on mapping in 1911 (Ossaka, 1973).

Nishinoshima (Rosario Island) was a very small island (700 square meters) out in the Volcano Islands arc. It is the surfacing top of a massive seamount rising 4 100 meters from the Ogasawara Trough on the east side and 2 600 meters from the oceanic plateau that surrounds the other sides. Situated on top of the seamount is a large submerged caldera 15 by 9 kilometers. Nishinoshima is surrounded on all sides by cones, vents, pillars and parasitic seamounts.

1973 – 1974 Island birth

Image of Nishinoshima from 1978. Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

Image of Nishinoshima from 1978. Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

On the 30th of May a passing ship noticed that Nishinoshima was ejecting pillars of white smoke reaching a height of approximately 100 meters every few minutes. During overflights the next day it was noticed that the eruption was taking place 400 meters east of the old Nishinoshima Island. A second flight revealed an active Jacuzzi at the eruption site and a belt of floating pumice and discolored water stretched five kilometers away. The second flight also noticed two black rocks sticking out of the water.

During the next 9 months a new island grew next to Nishinoshima, the island was never named, something that might have been a lucky stroke, because after the eruption ended on the first of March in 1974 waves quickly moved the erupted material around so that the new island connected with the old much smaller Nishinoshima. The new Island was 700 by 250 meters, but diminished in size over the coming years. The eruption was rated a VEI-2.

Later photograph from Japanese Coast Guard showing the initial craters growth.

Later photograph from Japanese Coast Guard showing the initial craters growth.

Before this eruption it was believed that Nishinoshima had not erupted for 10 000 years, this claim is very dubious since both the old and the new island is consisting mainly of cinder, tuff and pumice intermixed with lava flows. It is more likely that Nishinoshima has followed a pattern of birth, erosion, re-birth since the caldera forming eruption took place 10 000 years ago.

After that eruption there have been several suspected eruptions, but none that broke the surface. Two of those have a higher order of likelihood and that is the 1978 eruption 6.5 kilometers northwest of the island and another in north, west and south of the island in 1980 that caused widespread water discoloration.

Current eruption

Photograph from the current eruption taken by the Japanese Coast Guard.

Photograph from the current eruption taken by the Japanese Coast Guard.

Earlier today the Japanese Meteorological Agency announced that they had confirmed that an island forming eruption is taking place 500 meters southeast of Nishinoshima Island.

The Japanese Air Force detected an ash plume at 10 in the morning, and at 4 in the afternoon the Japanese Coast Guard confirmed that there was an eruption and the formation of a circular 200 meter wide island.

According to the Japanese authorities there is a high likelihood of a long eruption since this would seem to be the pattern from the previous eruptions that lasted from 9 months up to two years.

The authorities warn all ships to stay clear of the caldera. The eruption will if it continues probably produce a mix of cinder cones and lava flows binding.



122 thoughts on “Nishinoshimas and the birth of a new Island

  1. Just like Surtsey, but without the two massive tuffcones which Surtsey has. The Kavachi volcano also emerged from the sea, but also without forming massive tuffcones. At you see a movie about the formation of Kavachi-ey (-ey means island in Icelandic). It also had explosive eruptions initially like Surtsey did, but very soon a spatter cone developed which erupted lava. No large tuffcones were formed.

    Why do some volcanic island develop large tuffcones, while other ones don’t? Has it to do with the magma flux from the vent? I know that tuffcones are formed by phreato-magmatic (Surtseyan) eruptions when sea water rushes into the vent, causing explosions by the quenching of molten magma.

    More info about Kavachi:

    • Difference is in the magma, Surtsey was built by the gas rich icelandic type basalt. It has a tendency to not produce calm flowings like in Hawaii, instead you get firefountains.

    • Surtseyan eruptions end when the vent no longer comes in contact with water. I agree with Carl. Gas decides whether an eruption is explosive or effusive.

    • Fine, there are a bathymetry and some pictures of lava flows and of microscopic images of lavas. (cristals).
      In the end there is a summary of the island formation

  2. I hope we get some video of this one from someone on Youtube because it is awesome when new land is being created, or when new volcanoes emerge.
    Earth Science is cool.

    • All I could find was someone farting around with a small drone helicopter… nothing of the island forming.

      BTW, from it’s placement in the grand scheme of things, I think this is from magma welling up in the back-arc area of the subduction zone. We all knew it was there… somewhere. This is where it decided to come up at.

  3. Could this be the Pliny of the year? I was fascinated by this island, I even wrote the wiki article on it, so to see it erupting again is great.

    • If that is the name of the volcano… likely so. If it has no name, it could be in danger of being named ボブ.

      We’ve done that before when a volcano or vent has no easily found per-existing name, just so we could discuss it. We used “Bob” for the vent south of La Restinga as an extreme because of the difficulty the news heads had in pronouncing Eyjafjallajökull. Eventually it had several Icelandic permutations added to it just for the sake of fun. I think the locals were referring to it after a legendary fish that is purported to inhabit the waters… that no one seems to be able to catch.

      Personally, I think that if it continues… whatever name it gets will be short lived if it winds up connecting to the rest of the island.

    • The volcano is Nishinoshima, but the vent could be named.
      It is in Japanese waters, so I think we should named it Manuel efter the famous waiter. :mrgreen:

    • I am a bit excited actually. It is the first real sign that I might be about to loose my famous bet sometime in the future if Hekla does not get her act together. If you have missed it, I got so tired a couple of years ago about everyone stating thar Katla was about to erupt that I said I would eat my hat if she erupted before Hekla.
      Sofar Hekla has not done as she is supposed to do. And up untill that little swarm there was little reason to suspect that Katla would erupt in the nearish future.

      Oh, the bet involved me doing the BBQ ontop of Burfell infront of the Dalek-cam. Diana Barnes and the other ladies have somehow transmuted the bet into me being starkers and doing weird dances while doing the BBQ. You know how the ladies can be…

    • Reposting the video of the 3D plot from yesterday on that matter. Those small earthquakes were pretty much at the root of Katla. There were 5 more deep ones yesterday evening which are not on this plot, but at the same spot.

  4. And while most people where sleeping…

    At 03.08 local Icelandic time a probable volcanic event occured along the Grimsvötn fissure swarm in between the Grimsvötn and Thordharhyrna central volcanoes. The most likely location is the Háabunga central volcano adjacent to Grimsvötn.
    The event had a transient from start to maximum value at GRF 03.08 – 03.52 and a release that started 04.13 to present (06.27) when writing this. Same values for Husbondi is 03.09 to 03.53 and 04.14 as starting point for declination.
    Both curves for the event in higher resolution are similar indicating that the event took place in between and slightly closer to Grimsvötn than to Thordharhyrna.
    Interpretation. Phreatic event, most likely no penetration of Ice cover, nor any increased risk for Jökulhlaup.

    This would be the first recorded activity at Háabunga. The last eruption was in 1783.

    Medium resolution of the event. If you for some reason have a link to something like this, or to something else that is not on the server, do not post it. The back servers can’t take a lot of traffic and could jeopardize lives.
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    • The event was also visible at Jökulsheimar (JOK) and Haedir (HAE).
      Vonarskard and Vöttur was sadly offline during the event.

        • Only now, many hours later, they listed those earthquakes in that same exact area, around 3am.

          Why they keep not listing or removing the automatic detected earthquakes? Not good.

          This event shows that an eruption might be extending in the future towards the southwest of Grimsvotn.

          • The interesting part is that I could track popcorns on a few surrounding stations the hours before the event, they though stoped as soon as the main thing started on the Háabunga Thordharhyrna area.

            I wonder if this will be the area for the rifting fissure eruption in this cycle. A rifting fissure eruption that runs from the side of Háabunga via Thordharhyrna and out would be nasty. Imagine that amount of lava facing off with all that ice. We would pretty much get a 140 times larger version of Eyjafjallajökull if that happened.

            • However technically possible, I think we are more likely to see such eruptions where ice is rather thin or not anymore, because ice exerts a significant pressure, and it has been seen that sudden deglaciation is linked to large lava eruptions in Iceland (like Tjorsáhraun, Skaldbreidur, etc)

              But yes I have a feeling that something might occur in that area.

              Nevertheless Hamarinn-Veidivotn is another candidate.

  5. And on another note… If you have just washed your hands in 70 percent alcohol you should not rub your eyes afterwards regardless of how tired you are. I will be known as Redeye the Pirate today…

    • I tend to use 92%. I also tend to be more cautious due to the flamability.

      I also can echo the being careful sentiment… is you have been slicing Habeneros. Don’t do your contacts, and wash your hands SEVERAL times before you go to bed. If you don’t… you WILL wake up in a confused and pained state. Either from rubbing your eyes… or scratching yourself.

      • 92 will just dry out and crack your hands without any real improvement in abillity to kill germs.

        Over to the habaneros… One should not eat one the same day as being really nice to ones partner, because that is not nice at all.

        • Mmmm, Habaneros. The butcher I go to grew some “Chocolate” Habaneros – dark brown variety, superb flavour on top of ~450,000 Scovilles. That I could *just* handle when used in small quantities.

          Then I tried his million Scoville plus “Scorpion” and an equally strong “Dorset Naga”. Words fail me – I believe I did impressions of a mute but very startled chicken for some time. The next morning wasn’t very pretty either.

          I now know my limit. My wife thinks I’m a masochist, but she’s not hooked on the endorphins.

      • Seems to be that Akizmet is taking an unhealthy interest in mbschur today. Just take it easy, and one of the Dragons will release you shortly. As time goes by Akizmet will relearn to trust you again.

    • That is potentially worse than Laki… More water. It is on the same fissure swarm as Laki, and Laki will not erupt again since it has done it’s “Thing” and is now to tensile.

        • You got it 🙂 Now it is like a fresh rubberband, while other parts of the fissure swarm is like old rubberbands, not so stretchy and snaps easier. And we all know what rubberband would snap first 🙂
          Basically I have known all along that it would not be Laki II this time around. I either suspected a part of Bardarbunga fissure swarm, or Grimsvötn fissure swarm. Currently it looks more like Grimsvötn fissure swarm, and somewhere below ice.
          But, this can change as we get closer to the event.

          • well yes, soft does tear easier than rigid though 🙂 – thinking wet cardboard – the dry bits might bend/snap the wet stuff just rip – depends where you (or the magma) decide to push

    • Massive rifting eruptions can form just about anywhere in the dead zone (and some outside of it) from what I know, so it really doesn’t matter whether it heads toward the Laki swarm or not. As Carl mentioned, it’s unlikely the next rifting fissure eruption will take place where the Laki swarm is, and it’ll more likely occur in another rift area such as Veidivotn as there has been a longer time for repose in those areas.

      One thing I would be interested to know – has Iceland made pre-emptive plans for what would happen during a fissure related flood basalt eruption? The last one killed off 25% of the country, and while modern technology would be able to mitigate most of that life-loss, I would still imagine Iceland would want to be prepared to deal with the Fluorine poisoning that would cause issues in the livestock among other things. What type of mitigation plans do they have to deal with this?

      • To my knowledge there are several countries that have plans for it. You have the Icelandic mitigation plan that is quite extensive. UK have one, and then you have a European one developed by Nordvulc for ITER.
        Basically the Icelandic plan is for evacuation of those close by, breathing mask distribution, survival of livestock, and then comes the food part. The Icelanders have a plan for pretty much anything, and the skill and will to implement it. They are the World-Champions in the game.

        • They will just import more food. So, yes it will cause economic distress and stop much of the farming across the country. Water will need to be moved around in a few areas in the south/southeast. And as I said, I foresee many leaving the country for a while. I think it will be like the Westman Islands (people left their homes, then returned back months later), but at a larger scale.

          However, in terms of fluoride gas poisoning, in Reykjavik, things will only get nasty if there is strong east wind, which it happens to be a very common thing in Iceland.

          I, myself, will take a year off Iceland if that happens. After I enjoy the eruption for a few days, of course.

      • yes there is a plan.

        Þetta Reddast!

        This will be the way the Icelandic people will deal when it comes. It is a cultural thing, and sometimes negative when we imagine this kind of scenarios.

        Honestly, I think Iceland will only deal with that, when it starts. And it will be nasty, if its similar to Laki. I reckon a large amount of people will move temporarily to another country, and then return back.

  6. I was going to post this in my previous comment, but realized it got off topic so figured I’d make a separate post string for it.

    One thing that’s always interested me about Volcanoes is the inevitability behind them. Sure, it’s pretty unlikely we’ll see a huge eruption causing worldwide problems in our lifetime, but volcanoes like Ischia, Taal, Aira, and Campi Flegrei, all will likely have massive eruptions at some point in Humanity’s future that will likely screw up some portion of society for quite a while. I don’t mean this to sound like a doomer at all, but I just think it’s interesting that in a lot of ways, it’s a roll of the dice, and you really hope that huge eruptions at these volcanoes don’t occur during your lifetime. On a slightly smaller scale, you can calculate out a loose probability to see a game changing eruption at some point during your life.

    We’ve had around 6-7 eruptions that would belong in the category of “you really don’t want this to happen when you’re alive” in the last 2000 years. (Llopango, 79 Vesuvius, Tambora, Taupo, Samalas, Changbaishan, Krakatoa). Not that these would be doom inducing, but there would be major global impacts if these were to occur in modern times, and the world economy would definitely be affected to some degree. Also note that these weren’t all THAT huge, but they were eruptions that occur in areas that are now heavily populated, or are simply large enough to cause issues regardless of population.

    Assuming an average lifespan of 80 years based off the last 2000 years, that gives roughly a 1/3 chance of being alive during something like this. So, while it’s not supremely likely to see a crazy volcanic event during your lifetime, I wouldn’t be surprised to see something quite dramatic relating to volcanism at some point during my life.

    Note: when you include Icelandic fissure eruptions, the odds go up quite a bit, but given the timing, I think it’s almost a sure thing most people here will see a Rifting dead zone eruption in Iceland at some point.

    • I liked your “Note”. It put things into perspective. Laki was the deadliest eruption in history (with the odd possibility of Pinatubo being deadlier from a shortening of life perspective). We also know that we are closing in on a rifting period in the dead zone. If I am correct the peak likelyhood is in roughly 20 years, but with the risk of it happening from now and 40 years forward. And we also know that we have rifting fissure eruption in 2 out 3 cycles. So… Depending on age I would say the risk if high of suffering one of those.

      As most of you know I have spent quite a lot of time studying Laki, Veidivötn and other rifting episodes, both in here, but also in real life. Having seen firsthand the scale of destruction they leave behind I am both horrified by the possibility of seeing one, and highly intrigued to see one unfolding. Kind of professional horror. I guess it is the same with a firefighter who have studied fires in skyscrapers for a long time, knowing that there is a high risk he will be called one day to the scene of a burning skyscraper.

      • Yeah, that’s definitely true. I think a good portion of this is also related to the fact that we know a lot more about the affects of Laki since it was more recent in comparison to the affects of Samalas or Llopango, which we just discovered more recently. But I’m with you in the camp of “horrified, yet fascinated”. I guess if it were to really happen, I would be very fascinated by it early on, then that would probably turn into a “well crap” after it continues for another 50+ days and I realize the summer & winter will be colder than ever.

    • Great find,chère Sherine, merci beaucoup! And thanks Carl for putting it all into perspective.

      DragonEdit: Meh! Stop fiddling with your name. Spell it as you normally do and stop trying to fiddle. *spank*

  7. Hi
    I just watched the latest footage form Dr Behncke about the Etna Paroxysms (16-17th nov).
    Really worth a look plus there is the sound of the explosions. Thank you Dr Behncke (für die Bemühung)!

  8. Some interesting earthquakes today in Iceland. It looks like they are finally listing again the earthquakes.

    One at Hofsjokull (deep, thus suggesting magma movements), this is the area that experienced a “something” glacial event earlier this year, another quake at the shield volcano Skaldbreidur, but this one probably more tectonic (but ocasionally deep quakes occur in that region too).

    Also a small swarm today at Askja. And two small quakes at Theistareykjarbunga. I guess these areas have been having small quakes over the last few days, when the quakes were not making into the list.

  9. For those who wonder how strong was the volcanic tremor south of Grimsvötn? Here is a plot of the tremor that shows it pretty nicely. The smaller highs are storms.

    Only thing showing on the closest GPSes is the returning to normal at Grimsvötn after the eruption, a slight north motion at KALF, and whoever knows what HOFN is doing. We will have to wait and see what effect the last 24 hours will have on the GPSes, if any.

    • Carl, and a few of the denizens of Iceland that post here, are of the opinion that Iceland experiances periodic volcanic episodes. Some of these are accompanied by rifting events, usually coupled with activity at one of the central volcanoes. This makes sence given that the major rift areas, Vedivotn, Eldga, Lakagígar and otheres, lie with in the fissure swarms for the central volcanoes. One idea that can be derived from this, is that the magma that would have been erupted, moves down the fissure swarm and erupts.

      The “Dead Zone” concept comes from the odd lack of seismic activity in those fissure areas. Based on some model runs that I did, the heat from those past eruptive events is still there, and that the rock is pretty ductile. Rather than fracture from the stress generated by plate motion, it tends to ooze or stretch more readily… with little (if any) seismic events that show as quakes.

      Personally, I would believe that these regions would require very little to get them opened back up, but Carl seems to think that brittle failure of adjacent or other areas would be more likely.

      Doing an analysis of historically reported quakes, and the propegation models of some of the USGS papers (“Did you feel it?” series), I have come to the conclusion that the Laki eruption was preceeded by a series of Mag 5.0 or so quakes.

    • And the fact that there is a pattern of when it happens. During the last 1100 years we have had 4 large events.
      Roughly spaced years apart with 260 years
      Eldgja 934
      Frambuni 1250 (“small”)
      Veidivötn 1477
      Laki 1783

      It hinges on that it takes time for the rift SIVZ to recharge enough to rip apart. There have though been episodes where the cycle have skipped and so on. But mostly you can find a hit around the 260 year mark. The best example is Veidivötn that did 5 cycles in a row with an extra thrown in for good measure 5000BC to 4200BC.
      The cyclicity is just there in the data, and it is also possible to calculate the strain acumulation time needed before a rift can occur.

      One should also notice that during the last 1000 years 3 of the 4 largest rift eruptions in the area since deglaciation has occured. Just a thought.

      • There was another dead zone eruption around 1862, near the Hamarinn region (Trollagigar). It was a rifting fissure as well, probably bigger than Frambuni. I am not familiar with the sights of both fissures.

        And Vatnaoldur in 870, which was a biggie (similar size to the 1477 one). I wouldn’t trust much the GVP, as in ash layers, the 870 eruption (VEI4) has much more thickness of ash, than the 1477 (VEI6). Anyways they occurred in same region and blasted away a previous existing lake, with the 1477 blasting away the remains of that lake, but some still are left. The Veidivotn region has a LOT of water.

        316, 227, 306 years… yes, seems to be a pattern there, roughly 250-300 years. Should give a large rifting eruption between 2010 and 2099, but I reckon only a few decades from now 😉

        An eruption should be easy to forecast. The cycle is linked to an accumulation of strain, which can be caldulated; taking in consideration how larger was last its eruption, and also the proximity to a hotspot peak. I think eruptions should not happen with this cycle in the same spot, as the site remains “fluid” for a while. Between Vatnaoldur and Veidivotn, it was 600 years. Laki and Edlgja had much longer reposes. The area near Hamarinn seems to erupt also around a few centuries (if Frambuni is near there, then it is ~600 years until Trollgigar eruption)

        I think next one will be in a totally new site, probably SW of Grimsvotn, or NE of Bardarbunga.

        • Unbeknownst to many there was a second part of rifting during Laki. The Priest mentioned it in his account, but it was discredited by a researcher who hadn’t gone looking for it. Instead he used a bit of warped logic to remove it.
          When I went to the exact same area the Priest had pointed out I found exactly what he said would be there, a second set of fires. The fires started at Eldgigur and ran just a short bit. So, basically at the southern tip of the area that is now active. That is why I am so excited since I have pointed out that area as the site of the next biggie.

  10. And a present for Lurking to cheer up his friday…
    58 x 41 Rhotia Caldera. Home of at least 8 later calderas inside of the larger caldera.

    • Potentially 1029 km³ of ejecta over it’s formation lifetime. That be another monster.

      Finally made it down to Panama City. Pretty straight forward fix. Was struck by the large quantity of Lawyers offices, State offices, and Churches in the downtown area. Traffic wasn’t that bad, except for the Jaywalking “homeless” that tend to accumulate there.

      • The biggie is a one goer. After the big one it has done at least 8 other calderas inside of it. Side by side, inside each other… It takes nesting to a new level. So about a VEI-8 + 8 VEI-7s…

        It is a part of an even larger volcanic grouping stretching 260 by 235 kilometers. I am starting to get a feeling for the word super in a completely new way. Found a little maar-field with about 60 Laacher See in it. I gave up after finding 400 volcanic features.

        • Hi Carl, i can’t find much on Rhotia Caldera, is ngorongoro caldera one of the nested ones?
          And the larger volcanic group do you mean that area SE to SW of Ol Doinyo Lengai? That area is riddled with many volcanic features !

            • Thanks! It seems to be happening right at the northern border of the Tanzanian craton if i’m correct. I can imagen that, if the hotspot is around there you would get a really active area around that edge. Going straight through is a bit of a hurdle. Amazing to see the powers at work to break such an old thick continent with many cratons appart.

            • Funny thing is that it seems to have just enough power to blast through the craton.
              If it succeeds this will most likely be the last Hypervolcano™ that our cooling earth produces.

    • Well, thats a new one to me (even after trying to find every conceivable caldera on the planet about a year ago). I guess its no surprise considering nothing even came up on google scholar when searching it.

      So Ngorongoro is a nested caldera? If so, that’s a pretty monstrous nested caldera (along with the others in the area as well).

      • Take a look at Google Earth and you will… hm… get red cheeked, breath heavilly and… well, you get the picture 🙂
        Ngorongoro is nested inside Rhotia, and inside Ngorongoro you have another caldera. And next to Ngorongoro and stil inside of Rhotia you have 3 other large calderas with their own nestings…

        Edit: Turns out that humanity was born inside a supervolcano.

  11. A lovely resume of the Nautilus visit to Kick ’em Jenny Volcano in the Caribbean.
    Interesting biologically as well. As usual an eruption provides more questions than answers. Lovely to see how animals can recolonize so quickly too but again ..more questions!
    Working on the “every 10 years or so” eruption recording… she’s should be getting ready to party very soon but there was no evidence of an imminent eruption.

    Have a lovely Friday everyone……See you all in the Bar tonight…… 😀 😀

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