New volcanic island off Japan could be permanent, scientists say

Dec. 19, 2013 at 7:09 PM
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GREENBELT, Md., Dec. 19 (UPI) -- NASA says satellite photos of a brand new volcanic island that sprang from the ocean near Japan show it has grown in size and may survive for a long period.

The tiny island dubbed Niijima breached the surface of the Pacific Ocean in a volcanic eruption in late November about 600 miles south of Tokyo in waters considered part of Japanese territory.

Cameras on NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite captured a natural-color image of Niijima on December 8 showing it is still erupting and growing, the space agency reported Thursday.

Now at 13.8 acres, three times its initial size, and standing 20 to 25 yards above sea level, the island is large enough to survive for at least several years, if not permanently, scientists from the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Small volcanic islets like those recently formed off Pakistan and in the Red Sea can naturally sink back below the water line as they are eroded by wave action that carries away loose sediment, mud, and volcanic rock fragments, but if Niijima adds to its area with ongoing eruptions is may be around for quite a while, they said.

Niijima is about 80 miles from the nearest inhabited island.

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