Land of the Rising Earth

Last week Japan got a new island. Did you know that? Yeah. They just grew one. Apparently, lava from a volcano beneath the Pacific Ocean managed to break the surface, and thus Japan got ever so slightly larger. According to Nature, the newborn island is about 1,000 kilometers (621ish miles) from the coast of Nishinoshima, an uninhabited island in a chain called the Bonin Islands. Japan’s newest territory is about 200 meters in diameter and joined the extensive archipelago on November 20. As it turns out, new islands like this pop up occasionally but usually disappear back into the ocean, being quickly eroded away by the waves. As such, officials are currently waiting to see whether or not this new island will last before they go about naming it. This story actually broke because the Japanese coast guard posted a video of the island’s formation, which is pretty damn cool.

Image
Japan’s newest island (Source: http://www.usatoday.com)

Pakistan had the same basic thing happen this past September following a powerful earthquake. The quake registered a 7.7 and raised a small island, fittingly named Zalzala Jazeera (or earthquake island), about 2 kilometers off the coast of the city of Gwadar when it hit on September 24. The dimensions of Zalzala are still debated, as they have been mostly determined via satellite imagery. The earthquake had serious human costs too though, claiming at least 825 lives, according to The Nation, and injuring many more.

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Pakistan’s Zalzala Jazeera seen from a satellite (Source: en.wikipedia.org)

So how many new islands are formed every year? To be honest, I have no idea. I did a little digging, and surprisingly enough, I didn’t find anything. There seems to be a bit of a gap in our knowledge when it comes to compiling these events and keeping track of them. Now that makes a fair amount of sense when you think about it, given how many islands may form out in the middle of the ocean without being seen and just as quickly wash away without our ever knowing they existed. But at the same time, there doesn’t seem to be any list of occurrences like this, where new islands crop up near populated areas. That genuinely surprised me. So get on that, science. Seriously.

Original articles:

Japan:

http://www.nature.com/news/seven-days-22-28-november-2013-1.14242

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthvideo/10464479/Volcano-raises-new-island-off-coast-of-Japan.html

Pakistan:

http://www.nature.com/news/seven-days-27-september-3-october-2013-1.13864

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/national/01-Oct-2013/balochistan-quake-toll-jumps-to-825

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