Spectacular explosive activity continued at Japan’s Nishino-Shima volcano through July 2020. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a true-color image of the volcano on July 31, as it poured huge amounts of volcanic ash into the sky. According to the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), the volcanic ash plume rose to 19,000 feet (5,800 meters) on July 31 and was blown southward at 10 knots (11.5 mph).
Nishino-Shima lies about 600 miles (1,000 km) south of Tokyo, Japan in the Ogasawara Arc. A young volcano, it has gone through several expansions in recent history. During a major eruption in 1973-1974, several new islands coalesced expanding the size of the small island. In 2013, another vigorous eruption, which began offshore and continued until late 2015, eventually covered the island with lava flows and again enlarged the island. Short eruptive events occurred in 2017 and 2018, with another island-enlarging event starting in December 2019. According to the Smithsonian Institutions’ Global Volcanism Program, eruptive activity included ash emissions, incandescent ejecta, and numerous lava flows from multiple vents that flowed to the sea down several flanks, significantly enlarging the island.
The volcano has been increasingly active through most of 2020, with July seeing extreme activity, including a series of powerful vulcanian-type eruptions from July 30-August 1. A vulcanian eruption is characterized by dense, ash-rich cloud of gas exploding from the volcanic crater and typically rising high above the peak. Explosive, noisy clearing of the vent may accompany this type of explosion. The current eruptive phase of Nishino-Shima shows no sign of diminishing any time soon.