The Zubair Islands are located in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen on top of a shield volcano. Shield volcanos are created from fluid basalt lava flows, have broad, smooth slopes, and resemble a warrior’s shield, hence the name. The island chain, until the new eruption, contained ten islands and submerged shoals in a shallow platform in the Red Sea rift about 60 km (~ 40 miles) from Yemen. The island chain is oriented in a northwest-southeast line. Jebel Zubair Island, at 5 km long, is the largest island in the group.
Volcanic activity that erupted on December 19, 2011 has resulted in a new island to the group of 10 small islands. The newest island is situated between Haydock and Rugged Islands. The eruptions were witnessed by fishermen who reported “lava fountains reaching up to 30 meters (90 feet) tall.”
Satellite imagery has documented the volcanic events happening in the Zubair Islands. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites was able to capture plumes during passes on December 20 and December 22. The Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite detected elevated levels of sulfur dioxide from the volcanic eruption.
Stunning photos showing the before, during, and after of the new island formation were captured from the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.