Jorgen Aabech, a Norvegian volcano enthusiast writing already a long time in his blog vulkaner.no, wrote us an email on December 20 to attract our attention on a probably new eruption of the Jebel Zubair volcano, which is an island formation on the territory of Yemen. Jorgen asked us if we had any mention of earthquakes in the area, which was negative.
When looking at the Modis Terra and Aqua satellite picture on December 20, we saw indeed a very small cloud in the island area, but nothing important to us. We also followed the Sat24 weather satellite pictures for a while to eventually detect heat on their Infrared images, but also this was negative. This whole eruption, actually found by the scanning of Jorgen Aalbach (if we are right), was almost forgotten until NASA's Earth Observatory published a far better satellite picture showing more detail of the eruption. Just like during the Eritrea Nabro eruption, satellite images are the only source in this part of the world (in other words, these countries have other concerns than following an active volcano area all the time)
Update January 17, 2012
The eruption appears to have stopped, leaving behind a newborn island. The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite acquired this natural-color image on January 15, 2011. Click here for our in-depth report.
Update January 10, 2012
This new satellite image, acquired January 7, 2012, suggests that the eruption has risen nearly completely above water. A plume of steam, other volcanic gases, and ash spews from a distinct cone. The land surrounding the vent has grown, and is now about 530 by 710 meters (1,700 by 2,300 feet) across. Once above water, past eruptions in the Zubair Islands were primarily effusive, with relatively runny lava forming thin lava flows. In contrast to the fragmented rock that forms when lava interacts directly with water, lava that solidifies on land is tough, so this new island is likely to stick around. (text NASA earth observatory).
Update January 4, 2012
Julio del Castillo Vivero found this Arabic video from what almost certainly will be the Surtseyan eruption of the new island of the Zubair volcano. It was shot out of an helicopter from the navy (thats what the text says). Hard to say who made the video. We have to stress than we are only 99.99% sure that it is the current eruption. Why : the earlier eruption which was spotted by a Dutch navy ship, the HRMS Evertsen in 2007 was only photographed during the night, but was the activity of an already mapped volcano. The current eruption was detected by a satellite and after fisherman reported the activity. The video below has been uploaded to YouTube on January 2 2012.
Update 19:31 UTC : we have added a second video. We can be sure now that we talk about the new island being born. The first video (just added) is showing very well the whole group of volcanic islands.
Update December 31
- The new Zubair volcano activity has subsided strongly today. On the new daily terra satellite picture we cannot see the cloud which could be noticed the last couple of days.
Update December 30
- NASA Modis Aqua satellite picture is showing more activity today. The quality of the Satellite images differs because of indirect circumstances like high cloud, etc (visual image)
Update December 29 (all other info below).
- As you can see on the picture above, the eruption is still ongoing (white cloud and blue stain)
- It is a pity that nobody was around to make beautiful pictures from this Surtseyan eruption (not too late though - to all nature photographers : take your backpack and travel to Yemen (do not forget to hire some armed guards as the country has still a lot of armed rebels and as almost everyone carries a knife and a gun).
- The Yemen times, a local Yemenite newspaper (who does not mention the creation of a new island) wrote the following :
The Monitoring Center for the Study of Earthquakes and Volcanoes has reported the presence of light volcanic activity on one of the unpopulated islands of ‘Jabal Al-Zubair’ archipelago, 120 km northwest of Hodeida Governorate. Jamal Sha’alan, the manager of the center said that initial indications are that the volcanic eruption was light and will not pose a threat to marine navigation. Saleh Al-Maflahi, the assistant manager of the center, also confirmed that initial indications of the volcanic eruption are reassuring, saying that the centre has commissioned technical experts to travel to the site of the volcano to conduct studies. The team has installed a seismic monitoring station there to alert them to seismic activity that may be the precursor to volcanic activity, according to Al-Maflahi. “The volcanic activity and rising smoke was witnessed by some visitors,” he said, adding that a good deal of seismic activity had recently taken place. He said that the results of a survey of the area’s volcanic history showed that Jabal Al-Zubair is an active volcanic site, and that it witnessed volcanic activity 187 years ago. In September 2007, a volcano on Jabal Al-Tair Island - 20 km southwest of Al-Zubair and 140 kilometers off Yemen’s western coastline - caused the death of eight Yemeni soldiers in addition to injuring others stationed at a military base. Read the complete article here
The text below is courtesy Jorgen Aabech vulkaner.no and a few other sources which are referred to if used
December 19 - Jorgen Aabech wrote in his blog :
A possible eruption occurred at Az Zubair archipelago on 19th December 2011. Fishermen from Salif port city in the west of Yemen reported seeing an eruption with red lava rising to a height of 30 m. This was the first eruption the fisherman can recall from the area. Satellite images showed raised sulphur dioxide emissions close to the volcano on the following day.
On December 19 the NASA Aura/OMI SO² satellite captured a picture that revealed a strong SO² cloud column. This satellite is of great importance to detect remote located volcanoes.
December 20 - Jorgen Aabech Update (based on what he also read in Erik Klemetti Wired corner)
It seems like there is a lot of confusion about exactly where the eruption is taking place. A number of sources put the eruption at Jebel Zubair, another island volcano that is part of an archipelago that last erupted in 1824. Jebel Zubair is just to the south of Jebel at Tair, so looking at the OMI map and the new MODIS image found by Eruptions reader Kirby that looks to have a small plume (see above), it is more likely Jebel Zubair. However, there is still not a lot of information out there on this eruption.
December 22 - Jorgen Aabech
On 19 December a SO2 cloud was detected in an OMI satellite image. MODIS imagery from 20 December shows a plume rising from a submarine eruption about 1.5 km SW of Haycock and N of Rugged (near the N end of the Az-Zubair island group), and about 12 km NE of Jebel Zubair island.
A bathymetric sketch map made in 1973 indicates a water depth of about 100 m in that area.
Yemen TV showed an unstable and bad colored report in their news. We cannot trace whether this report is from this eruption, but it was published as it on You Tube. It is however hard to believe that the December 19 eruption (no other SO2 traces on the satellite maps) have build the island in only a week. A possibility is that the eruption had started a lot earlier in his submarine phase.
December 28 - Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism program writes :
An eruption from the northern part of the Zubair Group continued during 21-27 December. MODIS imagery from NASA's satellites on 22 December showed a plume, possibly containing ash, rising from what was thought to be a submarine eruption. Imagery acquired on 23 December from the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA's EO-1 satellite showed a new island at the location with a plume rising from it, roughly 500 m N of Rugged Island and more than 500 m in diameter. The island was not present in a similar image acquired on 24 October 2007.
December 28 - NASA Earth Observatory - Proof of a new island
The Picture combination below from NASA Earth Observatory shows the birth of the new island. The cloud picture was acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. A thick plume rises from the island, dark near the bottom and light near the top, perhaps a mixture of volcanic ash and water vapor.
Volcano information on the Zubair group
The 5-km-long Jebel Zubair Island is the largest of a group of 10 small islands and submerged shoals that rise from a shallow platform in the Red Sea rift (ER : the rift is created by 2 separating tectonic plates - in this case the African (or Nubian) Plate and the Arabian Plate) . The platform and eruptive vents forming the islands and shoals are oriented NNW-SSE, parallel to the rift. An early explosive phase was followed by a brief period of marine erosion, and then by renewed explosive activity accompanied by the extrusion of basaltic pahoehoe lava flows. This latest phase of activity occurred on the morphologically youngest islands of Zubair, Centre Peak, Saba, and Haycock. Historical explosive activity was reported from Saddle Island in the 19th century. Spatter cones and pyroclastic cones were erupted along fissures that form the low spine of Zubair Island.
As most of our readers know, NATO has been patrolling the Red Sea waters for quiet a few yers now. During one of their missions, the Dutch frigate HRMS Evertsen was able to rescue the survivors of a violent eruption in one of the Zubair volcano group vents. 9 people lost their lives during the eruption. While coming to rescue the survivors, the HRMS Evertsen was able to take some outstanding pictures from this explosive event. The 2 first images are showing the eruption pictures taken from the HRMS Evertsen. The third picture was photographed from the US Navy ship USS Bainbridge