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Report on Nishinoshima (Japan) — November 2017

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 42, no. 11 (November 2017)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke. Report research and preparation by: Liz Crafford.

Nishinoshima (Japan) April-July 2017 episode creates additional landmass from two lava flows

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2017. Report on Nishinoshima (Japan). In: Venzke, E (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 42:11. Smithsonian Institution.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Nishinoshima

Japan

27.247°N, 140.874°E; summit elev. 25 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Japan's Nishinoshima volcano erupted above sea level in November 2013 for the first time in 40 years. Between then and November 2015 the island grew from 0.29 to 2.63 km2 as a result of numerous lava flows erupting from vents around a central pyroclastic cone (BGVN 41:09). Eruptive activity ended in November 2015, and no additional activity was observed during 2016. A new eruption that included ash emissions and lava flows began in April 2017, and continued until mid-August 2017. Two major lobes of lava emerged from the central crater of the pyroclastic cone and flowed SW and W, expanding the size of the island to about 2.2 km in the E-W dimension and 1.9 km in the N-S dimension, a total area of about 3 km2.

Information comes primarily from monthly reports provided by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and reports and photographs taken by the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), which monitors the volcano due to its remote location in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 940 km S of Tokyo along the Izu-Bonin arc. Satellite thermal data (MODIS) also provides valuable information about the active heat flow at the volcano.

Changes during November 2013-October 2015. Nishinoshima grew about twelve times in area between 6 November 2013 and 11 October 2015, after nearly two years of constant eruptive activity (figure 39). JCG presented a map in November 2015 showing the areas added to Nishinoshima between November 2013 and November 2015 (figure 40). The Ocean Information Division of JMA conducted a seabed topographic survey in a 4-km radius around the island between 22 June and 9 July 2015 that revealed the new submarine topography (figure 41).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 39. Nishinoshima grew about twelve times in area between 6 November 2013 and 11 October 2015. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured these images of the old and new island on those two dates. The top image shows the area on 6 November 2013, two weeks before the eruption started. The second image was acquired on 11 October 2015, after nearly two years of constant eruptive activity. In both images, pale areas just offshore likely reveal volcanic gases bubbling up from submerged vents or sediments disturbed by the eruption. Courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Changes in the shape and size of Nishinoshima between 21 November 2013 and 17 November 2015. Black dots outline areas above sea level prior to 21 November 2013. The sets of three numbers in the legend represent dates as follows '25' is 2013, '26' is 2014 and '27' is 2015. These numbers are followed by month and day. For example 26..12..25 is 25 December 2014. The total area of the island is shown after each date. The red outline shows the outer edge of land as of 17 November 2015. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 20 November 2015).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. The Ocean Information Division of JMA conducted a seabed bathymetric survey in a 4-km radius around Nishinoshima between 22 June and 9 July 2015 that revealed the new submarine topography after almost two years of eruption. The dashed blue line shows the area above sea level prior to November 2013. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 20 October 2015).

Activity during October-December 2015. The JCG visited Nishinoshima on 13 October, 17 November, and 22 December 2015 (BGVN 41:09). Explosions with ash plumes (figures 42 and 43) and active lava flows from a hornito on the flank (figures 44 and 45) were observed on 13 October. On 17 November they observed crater-like depressions on the N flank of the pyroclastic cone (figure 46).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. Ash explosion from the pyroclastic cone at Nishinoshima on 13 October 2015. Japanese text means "crater". Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 16 October 2015).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. Plumes of discolored water surround Nishinoshima while an explosion emits ash from the pyroclastic cone on 13 October 2015. Japanese text means "discolored water area". Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 16 October 2015).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 44. Lava flowed from a hornito on the NE flank of the pyroclastic cone (arrow at left, "lava flow outlet") at Nishinoshima on 13 October 2015. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 16 October 2015).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 45. Thermal imagery revealed lava flowing N and W from the hornito on the NE side of the pyroclastic cone at Nishinoshima on 13 October 2015. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 16 October 2015).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 46. Crater depressions appeared on the N side of the pyroclastic cone at Nishinoshima on 17 November 2015. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 20 November 2015).

By the time of their visit on 22 December, there were no further signs of activity from the pyroclastic cone (figure 47), and a comparison of thermal imagery between 17 November and 22 December (figure 48) showed a dramatic decline in heat flow. Aerial photography of the island that day revealed the extent of the new island compared with the pre-November 2013 landmass (figure 49).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 47. The pyroclastic cone and summit crater at Nishinoshima were quiet when observed by the JCG on 22 December 2015. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 25 December 2015).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 48. A comparison of thermal imagery from 22 December 2015 (left) and 17 November 2015 (right) reveals a decrease in heat flow at Nishinoshima from both the summit crater and the hornito on the SW flank. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 25 December 2015).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 49. Composite of aerial photographs of Nishinoshima on 22 December 2015. Green and yellow outlines show areas that were above sea level on 21 November 2013 for comparison. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 25 December 2015).

Activity during 2016. The Japan Coast Guard continued with monthly observations during 2016, with visits on 19 January, 3 February, 5 March, 14 April, 20 May, 7 June, 19 July, 18 August, 15 September, and 6 October 2016. Only weak fumarolic activity was observed during the February visit (figure 50). Thermal measurements consistently remained at or below 100°C during the year; plumes of light brown to yellowish-green discolored water generally extended 200-400 m away from the coastline, suggesting continued submarine hydrothermal activity. The discolored water extended 1,000 m off the N coast during the 5 March visit. Dense steam filled the summit crater of the pyroclastic cone on 14 April (figure 51). During their 20 May visit, JCG noted a slight increase in size of the beach areas around the shoreline; this increase continued for several months, likely a result of fresh lava flows breaking down into sand from the wave action. During May and June, small amounts of magmatic gas were visible rising a few tens of meters above the summit crater.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 50. Weak fumarolic activity from the S side of the crater rim was the only notable activity observed at Nishinoshima during a visit by JCG on 3 February 2016. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 5 February 2016).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 51. Steam emanated from the summit crater of the pyroclastic cone at Nishinoshima during a visit by the Japan Coast Guard on 14 April 2016. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 19 April 2016).

On 17 August, JMA cancelled the maritime volcano warning (preventing vessels from approaching within 1.5 km), as a result of the decreased activity. Professor Kenji Nogami of the Tokyo Institute of Volcanic Fluid Research Center noted an increase in the discolored water area, extending about 1,000 m on the S side of the island during the JCG overflight on 15 September. JCG conducted a new submarine survey of the area during 22 October-10 November 2016 to provide data for new maritime charts. No additional reports were issued until a new eruptive episode was observed on 20 April 2017.

While the Japan Coast Guard did not observe volcanic activity during 2016, the MIROVA data suggests that low levels of heat flow were intermittent throughout the year, with slight increases during May-June, July-August, and September-October 2016 (figure 52). The heat flow recorded by MIROVA during 2016 was about an order of magnitude less that that during the period with active lava flows in September-November 2015.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 52. MIROVA Radiative Power thermal anomaly graph for Nishinoshima from 16 August 2015 through 15 November 2017. Data is from the MODIS satellite instrument. Active lava flows were observed by the JCG through mid-November 2015 (top graph). Only minor fumarolic activity was intermittently observed during 2016. Renewed lava flows and Strombolian activity were again observed beginning on 21 April 2017 (bottom graph). Courtesy of MIROVA.

Activity during April-October 2017. The JCG observed renewed eruptive activity when they visited Nishinoshima on 20 April 2017. They confirmed the existence of a new lava flow from the summit crater of the pyroclastic cone on 21 April. They also observed a gray ash plume 500 m wide rising 1,000 m above the crater, Strombolian explosions at intervals of tens of seconds, and molten lava within the crater. A new lava flow appeared on the N side of the cone, although it had not yet reached the ocean. By the time of the next overflight on 27 April, JCG confirmed that the lava flow had reach the ocean on the W and SW coast of the island (figure 53), and a new pyroclastic cone had formed within the summit crater. Strong MODVOLC multi-pixel thermal alerts first appeared on 18 April, and persisted with no more than a few day's break until early August 2017. The Tokyo VAAC reported an ash plume on 20 April at 2.4 km altitude drifting W, but it was not identifiable in satellite data.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 53. New lava flows (outlined in white) reach the ocean on the W and SW coast of Nishinoshima on 27 April 2017. Ash emissions rose from the summit crater, and steam plumes emerged from the numerous places where the lava entered the sea. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 28 April 2017).

Strombolian explosions were observed every 40-60 seconds during an overflight on 2 May 2017. They emerged from the new pyroclastic cone at the center of the summit crater. Ash plumes rose 500 m and drifted SW. Two vents on the N side of the crater produced lava that flowed to the ocean on the SW coast of the island (figure 54). Areas of new lava extended about 170 m W and 180 m SW into the ocean. Continued ash emissions were drifting N from the island on 24 May, and lava continued flowing into the sea along the SW shore.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 54. A thermal image of Nishinoshima taken on 2 May 2017 reveals an active lava flow emerging from the N flank of the crater and flowing SW into the ocean. Two vents are identified with the white arrows. The red arrow identifies the pyroclastic cone within the summit crater. The new areas of lava extended about 170 m W and 180 m SW into the ocean. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 10 May 2017).

During the next overflight on 6 June, JCG confirmed a new lava flow emerging from the W flank of the pyroclastic cone and flowing to the sea (figure 55). In late June 2017, JMA published a new bathymetric map of Nishinoshima and surrounding waters as of October 2016. JCG noted that explosions continued at 30-second intervals during their 29 June overflight. Ash plumes rose to about 200 m above the crater rim, and lava was entering the sea on the W side of the island (figure 56). The new lava flows now extended into the sea about 330 m to the W and 310 m to the SW (figure 57).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 55. A thermal image of lava flowing into the ocean on the W side of Nishinoshima captured during a JCG overflight on 6 June 2017. A new lava flow (red arrow) flows W from the crater to the sea while the lobes of the existing flow continue to extend into the ocean. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 9 June 2017).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 56. A thermal image of Nishinoshima taken on 29 June 2017 reveals lava entering the sea on the W side of the island, and a new vent with fresh lava on the S side of the pyroclastic cone (white circle). Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 5 July 2017).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 57. Two lobes of fresh lava flows extend S and SW from Nishinoshima on 29 June 2017 as ash emissions rise from the central crater. Lava is actively flowing into the sea on the W side of the W lobe, but is no longer active on the SW lobe. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 5 July 2017).

The Tokyo VAAC reported multiple ash emissions during June. An eruption generated an ash plume on 8 June that rose to 1.2 km altitude and drifted SW. Emissions were observed in satellite imagery for the next 24 hours before dissipating. Another ash plume on 26 June was reported drifting NE at 3 km altitude. Ash seen on 30 June was reported drifting W at 2.1 km altitude for most of the day before dissipating. The Tokyo VAAC reported a possible eruption on 2 July that sent an E-drifting ash plume to 1.5 km altitude. It was later reported at 3 km altitude before dissipating. Ash and bombs were observed exploding from the central crater during the 11 July 2017 JCG overflight. Lava was also still entering the sea on the W side of the island (figure 58).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 58. Strombolian explosions and lava entering the sea were captured in this thermal image taken from the W side of Nishinoshima on 11 July 2017. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 14 July 2017).

The JCG visited the island on 11 and 24 August 2017. They did not witness any eruptive activity, but diffuse steam plumes were seen rising from the crater rim. They also noted steam plumes from lava that was still entering the sea on the W side of the island on 11 August, but not during the 24 August flyover. Aerial photos taken that day showed the extent of new land formed since late April (figure 59). Additional flyovers by JCG on 15 September and 7 October confirmed a lack of active lava flows, and only minor steam plumes were reported rising from the crater rim. The last MODVOLC thermal alert appeared on 5 August. The MIROVA thermal anomaly signals that had abruptly reappeared in late April gradually tapered off throughout August, confirming a decrease in the heat flow as the lava flows cooled (figure 52).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 59. Composite of aerial photos taken on 24 August 2017 showing the increased landmass at Nishinoshima from the new lava flows that erupted between 18 April and 11 August. The green outline shows the area of the old (pre-Nov 2013) Nishinoshima still visible on 24 August. The blue outline represents the shoreline prior to the eruption of 18 April. The yellow outline shows the shoreline as of 29 June 2017, and the red outline shows the area outline as of 24 August 2017. Courtesy of Japan Coast Guard (Status of volcanic activity at Nishinoshima, 29 August 2017).

Geologic Background. The small island of Nishinoshima was enlarged when several new islands coalesced during an eruption in 1973-74. Another eruption that began offshore in 2013 completely covered the previous exposed surface and enlarged the island again. Water discoloration has been observed on several occasions since. The island is the summit of a massive submarine volcano that has prominent satellitic peaks to the S, W, and NE. The summit of the southern cone rises to within 214 m of the sea surface 9 km SSE.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Otemachi, 1-3-4, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html); Japan Coast Guard (JCG), Policy Evaluation and Public Relations Office, 100-8918, 2-1-3 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Telephone, 03-3591-6361 (URL: http://www.kaiho.mlit.go.jp/info/kouhou/h29/index.html); NASA Earth Observatory, EOS Project Science Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/).