Island off Japan Coast Swallows its Neighbor, Volcano Island Niijima

First Posted: Apr 07, 2014 12:17 PM EDT

Niijima is Japan's newest island located in the Philippine Sea that has consistently grown in size since its inception in November. A NASA satellite image from March 30 found that Niijima merged with nearby island Nishino-shima.

Niijima resulted from a seafloor volcano that sprouted in the western Pacific Ocean this past November. It is located 600 miles south of Tokyo in the Pacific "Ring of Fire, which spans from the coast Chile to Alaska and Siberia and then south to New Zealand. The volcanic island has not stopped erupting since November.

As a result of the nonstop eruption, Niijima recently merged with another nearby volcanic island, Nishino-shima. The newly formed island is about 3,280 feet across and sits 196 feet above sea level. The southern portion of the landmass continues to show volcanic activity as ashes are rising from the island's surface.

The Bonin Island chain, where Niijima and Nishino-shima are located, contains 30 islands all of which were formed by the protrusions of an ancient underwater volcano. The islands possess over 100 kind of indigenous plants and 14 kinds of animals, which have evolved there over time. The Japan National Tourism Organization provides more information about the islands.

NASA's Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 Satellite was able to capture images of Nishino-shima prior to it being engulfed by Niijima. The images are from December 30, 2013 and March 30, 2014. Japanese scientists now suspect that the new island will last much longer than expected.

"A lot of it depends on how fast it erodes," Ken Rubin, a University of Hawaii at Manoa professor and expert in deep submarine volcanism, in this CNN News article. "Until it shuts off, it's too soon to tell."

The giant submarine volcano that enabled the merging last erupted in the 1970s, according to the Japanese Coast Guard. When it first started to erupt in November, experts believed it would soon slip back under the sea, but it shows no apparent signs of doing so now that it has merged with Nishino-shima.

To read more about the merging Japanese islands in the Pacific Ocean, visit this Huffington Post article.

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