New Island Emerges from the Red Sea

Red Sea Island Images

Top Image: October 24, 2007. Bottom Image: December 23, 2011. NASA Earth Observatory images created by Jesse Allen, using EO-1.

These NASA images show the planet’s newest island, created by an eruption of lava along the Red Sea rift zone earlier this month. This rift separates the African and Arabian tectonic plates, which are slowly moving apart. Seafloor spreading allows the creation of new ocean crust and, occasionally, a new island. The top satellite image from October 24, 2007, shows nothing but open sea between Haycock Island and Rugged Island. The lower image, showing the plume of volcanic ash and water vapor rising from the new island was acquired on December 23, 2011. Cartographers might want to hold off on updating their maps of the world, though. According to the Short Sharp Science blog from New Scientist, many new islands such as this one ultimately are unable to withstand the destructive action of sea waves. Whether or not the new island is built to last, this is a rare and dramatic view of plate tectonics in action.

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