December 30, 2011

Red Sea Volcanic Activity Results In Formation Of New Island

Subaquatic volcanic activity has resulted in the formation of a new landmass in the Red Sea -- a smoking island that has appeared in between the Rugged and Haycock islands, according to various media reports published earlier this week.

According to Discovery News, lava fountains reaching heights of up to 100 feet were spotted by fishermen off the coast of Yemen on December 19.

Specifically, the activity was witnessed close to the group of islands known as the Zubair Group, off the west coast of the nation, added Lucy Buckland of the Daily Mail.

Ash plumed were observed emanating from that location twice (first on December 20 and again two days later) by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites, Brett Israel of OurAmazingPlanet reported.

By December 23, what appeared to be a new island had first appeared, Israel said. The following day, the Advanced Land Imager on board NASA's Earth Observing One satellite snapped a photograph of the new land mass, added Discovery News.

"The volcanic activity occurred along the Zubair Group, a collection of small islands that run in a roughly northwest-southeast line," Israel wrote in an article also published on MSNBC.com. "The islands rise from a shield volcano (a kind of volcano built from fluid lava flows) and poke above the sea surface“¦ Scientists will keep a close eye on the new island to see if it has staying power."

"Many times the islands are ephemeral as they are usually made of loose volcanic debris, so they get destroyed by wave action quite quickly," Erik Klemetti, a volcanologist at Denison University in Ohio, told Israel.

However, it is possible that "the volcanic activity could outpace the erosion due to the wave action," the OurAmazingPlanet reporter added.

The size of the island is "not yet clear," Buckland wrote.

"This is the first eruption in the Zubair Archipelago since at least 1846," said Joe Bauwens of the blog Sciency Thoughts, adding that the archipelago in question "are a group of volcanic islands off the southwest coast of Yemen" and "essentially a shield volcano on the Red Sea Rift with a number of vents," not unlike the Hawaiian Islands or the volcanoes of Mars.


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