Powerful undersea eruption at volcano off US coast


The Axial Seamount vent in 2011.
BILL CHADWICK, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

A powerful eruption is under way at the Axial Seamount, a massive underwater volcano located about 400 kilometres off the Oregon coast.

It began on 24 April and scientists were ready for it, with instruments to monitor the eruption – the first at Axial Seamount since 2011.

It caused some 8,000 earthquakes off the coast as the sea floor fell 2.4 metres as magma was emptied from beneath the seamount.

Oregon State University researcher Bill Chadwick in September 2014 forecast an eruption sometime in 2015 based on measurements of uplift of the seafloor in the summit caldera since 2011.

That scientists were there to see what was going on for the first time, was also justification for the the $386 million Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), Nature reported.

“This is what I’ve been dreaming about for decades,” John Delaney, an oceanographer at the University of Washington in Seattle told the journal. “This is a new era of exploration in the Earth sciences.”

Axial lies on top of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, where hot magma fills a reservoir beneath the volcano.

Researchers won't know exactly what happened on the sea floor until they travel out to the seamount later this year.

  1. http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2015/apr/researchers-think-axial-seamount-northwest-coast-erupting-–-right-schedule
  2. http://oceanobservatories.org
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