Underwater Volcano Fountain
A team of marine scientist’s gas discovered the deepest undersea erupting volcano, which is nearly 4,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, in an area bounded by Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.
Known as the West Mata Volcano, it has been found by scientists funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
"For the first time we have been able to examine, up close, the way ocean islands and submarine volcanoes are born," said Barbara Ransom, program director in NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences.
According to the expedition's chief scientist Joseph Resing, "We found a type of lava never before seen erupting from an active volcano, and for the first time observed molten lava flowing across the deep-ocean seafloor."
"It was an underwater Fourth of July, a spectacular display of fireworks nearly 4,000 feet deep," said co-chief scientist Bob Embley, "Since the water pressure at that depth suppresses the violence of the volcano's explosions, we could get an underwater robot within feet of the active eruption. On land, or even in shallow water, you could never hope to get that close and see such great detail," he added.
Imagery includes large molten lava bubbles three feet across bursting into cold seawater, glowing red vents exploding lava into the sea, and the first-observed advance of lava flows across the deep-ocean floor.
The West Mata Volcano is producing boninite lavas, believed to be among the hottest on Earth in modern times, and a type seen before only on extinct volcanoes more than one million years old.
According to University of Hawaii geochemist Ken Rubin, the active boninite eruption provides a unique opportunity to study magma formation at volcanoes and to learn more about how Earth recycles material where one tectonic plate is subducted under another.
Further study of active deep-ocean eruptions will provide a better understanding of oceanic cycles of carbon dioxide and sulfur gases, how heat and matter are transferred from the interior of the Earth to its surface, and how life adapts to some of the harshest conditions on Earth.
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