Two volcanic islands that have emerged in the southern Red Sea suggest that the area is more geologically active than was thought.

Credit: Jónsson et al. Nature Commun.

Sholan Island surfaced in December 2011 and Jadid Island appeared in October 2013, forming part of the Zubair archipelago (pictured). Seismic data and satellite radar measurements show that both islands were created by magma squirting up along north–south fractures under the sea floor, says a team led by Sigurjón Jónsson of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudia Arabia. The area is seeing a decades-long episode of rifting, in which one plate of Earth's crust pulls apart from another.

Observing newly formed islands in such detail is rare, and the islands will probably remain above water despite erosion, say the authors.

Nature Commun. 6, 7104 (2015)