Volcanic Eruption in the Red Sea (Yemen) reported
Wed, 21 Dec 2011, 08:1508:15 AM | BY: TP
MODIS thermal image of the area of the reported eruption (the Zubair islands are in the center). No hot spot is visible, which could indicate either the eruption was extremely short and small, or there was another cause of the report.
Graphic from VAAC Toulouse showing the location of the reported steam plume above Jebel Zubair in the Red Sea
(update 21 Dec:)
SO2 plume above the Red Sea on 19 Dec (Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring http://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov)
More sources are emerging, confirming that in fact an eruption seems to have taken place:
Aref Hamoud, a reader from Yemen confirms us the original report, that an eruption happened on 19 Dec on "Saba Island Coordinates: (Lat. 15° 5'13.38"N Long. 42° 9'10.12"E)", and that people in the area could feel a quake associated with it that day.
On some high-res NASA's satellite images, a possible weak plume above Jebel Zubair could be detected and a conspicuous sulfur dioxide plume was detected above the area on 19 Dec, which was not there on 18 Dec (but also no longer on 20 Dec). Sulfur dioxide is an indicator gas for volcanic eruptions.
Toulouse VAAC issued a minor ash alert yesterday, based on the observation of a steam plume by a passing aircraft. The plume may or may not contain minor amounts of ash and is lower than flight level 180 (18,000 ft altitude, ca. 6 km).
To conclude, we have reason to believe that a small fissure eruption has occurred on Zubair.
According to local news, a volcano erupted near Saba Island in the Red Sea on Monday 19 Dec 2011. The report comes from fishermen from Salif, a port city in western Yemen. They reported seeing lava fountains rising 20-30 meter which could be seen from "3 hours" (sailing time) away.
The likely source of the eruption, if the reports are true, could be one of the islands Zubair islands: Jebel Zubair, Centre Peak, Saba, or Haycock island, which form a small archipelago 30 miles (50 km) west of Salif. The islands belong to a mostly submerged, active shield volcano located on the Red Sea rift axis.
The fishermen are said that "this was the first volcano they ever seen in the region", which is not surprising as the last activity of the volcano was an eruption in 1824.
At the moment, the report remains a bit questionable: no thermal anomaly or ash clouds are visible on satellite data. This could indicate that either the eruption was extremely short and small, or (more likely) that there something else happened (military action, fire etc) which was mistaken by untrained distant observers for lava fountains.
On the other hand, volcanic eruptions on the Red Sea rift are nothing unusual, although the remoteness of the area often prevents observation.