Undersea volcano’s rumblings revealed

Deep-sea octopus
A deep-sea octopus explores lava flows that erupted at Axial Seamount in 2015. At the time, this was probably the youngest seafloor on the planet. (NOAA / Oregon State University Photo / Bill Chadwick)

An underwater seismic network pioneered by the University of Washington and other institutions is revealing how thousands of tiny shocks can herald huge eruptions.

Results from the Ocean Observatories Initiative’s Cabled Array, published today by the journal Science and Geophysical Research Letters, focus on the buildup of seismic activity in advance of a 2015 eruption at Axial Seamount, the most active submarine volcano in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The release of the results was timed to coincide with this week’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

“Instruments used by Ocean Observatories Initiative scientists are giving us new opportunities to understand the inner workings of this volcano, and of the mechanisms that trigger volcanic eruptions in many environments,” Rick Murray, director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences, said in a news release. “The information will help us predict the behavior of active volcanoes around the globe.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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