Niijima Island Merges With Volcanic Sister in 'Ring of Fire' Off Japan

Tuesday, 08 Apr 2014 06:58 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Niijima Island, the newest Japanese territory created last November from an underwater volcanic burst, has been rapidly expanding and has merged with another relatively recent Pacific island over the past few months.

The island is located in the Philippine Sea approximately 600 miles south of Tokyo in an area of the Pacific Ocean commonly referred to as the "Ring of Fire" for its heightened seismic and volcanic activity, according to

When Niijima Island first surfaced last November it was located approximately 550 yards away from its existing neighbor – Nishinoshima Island, which was created 40 years earlier by a similar seafloor volcano. The merger of the two islands was reportedly first noted by NASA's Earth Observatory, which took images of the two islands as they grew closer together between Dec. 30 and March 30.

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According to the space agency's latest recorded observations of Niijima Island, following its consumption of its 40-year-old neighbor, the emergent land mass measures approximately six-tenths of a mile across and nearly 200 feet above sea level at its highest point, CNN reported.

In December, Japanese scientists estimated that Niijima Island would likely last several years before being swallowed up by the ocean, however, due to its rapid expansion recently the new land mass could last much longer.

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

Niijima Island is among 30 or so small islands that make up what is known as the Bonin Island chain, all of which were formed by the protrusions of an ancient underwater volcano and are home to some 14 kinds of animals and more than 100 kind of indigenous plants, noted.

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