Hawaii’s ongoing eruption created new land, but only for a few days…
Last week, a small new island was born. Yes, a real island, surrounded by water and smaller than a continent, and emerged just a few meters off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, formed by the lava that’s been flowing from Kīlauea since May. All beautiful, but a few days later, the small island had already transformed, and on Monday, July 16, it had become an isthmus.
The island formed near the northern end of the area where lava from a productive fissure has been pouring into the ocean. The observers first reported the island’s existence on Friday, when they described it as “a small island…just offshore the northern edge that continues to ooze lava.” At the coast, the lava continues to flow underwater, and probably the island was formed by pressure in that submerged flow, which pushed a “ridge” of lava up above the water level. But below the waves, that island was still connected to the larger lava flow, and over the weekend, the distance between Big Island and tiny new island was filled in. After a short life as an independent island, this new piece of land became part of a larger one.
This event is rare, but it’s not the first time that lava adds new land to the Hawaii, and Kīlauea has added more than a thousand acres of land to the country over the past decades. All new lava extensions automatically become a part of the state. According to geologists the little island would have likely disappeared quickly, as the waves eroded it, and the same on a larger scale is happening to all of the Hawaiian islands. New land formed by lava helps extend the life of the island: it will still erode away, but it will give the shore a pause from the corrosive power of the ocean.