Scientists Reveal Details Of Largest Underwater Volcanic Eruption

Posted: Jan 14 2018, 2:34pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Scientists Reveal Details of Largest Underwater Volcanic Eruption
Credit: Rebecca Carey, University of Tasmania, Adam Soule, WHOI, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The 2012 submarine eruption of Havre volcano in the Kermadec Islands of New Zealand is the largest deep-ocean eruption in history

On July 18, 2012, an aircraft spotted a vast area of open ocean covered with a floating rock. The raft of floating rock known as pumice was originally 400 square kilometers wide but eventually spread over 26,000 square kilometers. The size of the raft indicated that it was produced by unusually larger underwater volcanic eruption, but its origin was a mystery to scientists.

Since volcanic eruptions take place hundreds of feet below water, the details of these events usually remain hidden. Same was the case with that specific volcanic eruption. It was not even initially noticed by scientists. But later they found that the underwater volcanic eruption occurred on the seafloor of Kermadec Islands of New Zealand and was triggered by the Havre caldera volcano.

Based on the size of the pumice raft, the 2012 submarine eruption of Havre volcano is considered the largest deep-water silicic eruption ever. Recently, researchers have documented the first up-close investigation of this largest underwater volcanic eruption.

"We knew it was a large-scale eruption, approximately equivalent to the biggest eruption we've seen on land in the 20th Century.” Rebecca Carey, a volcanologist at University of Tasmania and a part of the study said in a statement.

To learn more about the volcanic eruption, researchers visited the site in 2015. They used the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry and the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason to explore and collect erupted materials from the Havre volcano. By using AUV Sentry, researchers mapped more than 19 square miles of seafloor.

"Heading to the site, we were fully prepared to investigate a typical deep-sea explosive eruption," said Adam Soule, WHOI associate scientist and chief scientist for the National Deep Submergence Facility. "When we looked at the detailed maps from the AUV, we saw all these bumps on the seafloor and I thought the vehicle's sonar was acting up. It turned out that each bump was a giant block of pumice, some of them the size of a van. I had never seen anything like it on the seafloor."

Underwater volcanic eruptions are rarely detected, so little is known about them. The new findings will help researchers better understand how silicic eruptions happen and what they produce.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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