Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists Discover Undersea Volcano Off Antarctica

21.05.2004

Scientists working in the stormy and inhospitable waters off the Antarctic Peninsula have found what they believe is an active and previously unknown volcano on the sea bottom.

The international science team from the United States and Canada mapped and sampled the ocean floor and collected video and data that indicate a major volcano exists on the Antarctic ontinental shelf, they announced on May 5 in a dispatch from the research vessel Laurence M. Gould, which is operated by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.58 billion. NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, which coordinates U.S. scientific research on the southernmost continent and in the Southern Ocean.

Evidence of the volcano came as an unintended bonus from a research plan to investigate why a massive ice sheet, known as the Larsen B, collapsed and broke up several years ago. Scientists hope to understand whether such a collapse is unique or part of a cycle that extends over hundreds of thousands of years.

Scientific evidence the team collected also corroborates mariners’ reports of discolored water in the area, which is consistent with an active volcano.

Eugene Domack, a researcher at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York and the expedition’s chief scientist, said the volcano stands 700 meters (2300 feet) above the seafloor and extends to within roughly 275 meters (900 feet) of the ocean surface.

He estimated that the volcanic cone contains at least 1.5 cubic kilometers (.36 cubic miles) of volcanic rock.

By comparison, Mount Erebus, a known active volcano on Ross Island near McMurdo Station, NSF’s main Antarctic research center, is approximately 3,800 meters (12,400 feet) above sea level.

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on Earth, rises approximately 4,100 meters (13,600 feet) above sea level. Mexico’s Cuexcomate volcano is considered to be the world’s smallest, standing 13 meters (43 feet) tall.

The research team comprised scientists from Hamilton College, Colgate University, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, Montclair State University in New Jersey, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and Queens University in Canada.

Domack said the volcano lies in an area known as Antarctic Sound, at the northernmost tip of Antarctica.

He noted that there has been "no previous scientific record of active volcanoes in the region" where the new peak was discovered and that it is north of an existing boundary where volcanic activity is known to occur in the region.

The volcano, which has yet to be named, also is unusual, Domack said, in that it exists on the continental shelf, in the vicinity of a deep trough carved out by glaciers passing across the seafloor.

Sonar maps made of the seafloor during a research cruise in January 2002 first suggested that the volcano exists. The so called swath maps showed a large concentric and symmetrical feature on the ocean floor that had not been scoured by the advance and retreat of glaciers. The absence of glacial scours indicates the suspected volcano is fairly young in geologic terms.

But it was not until April of this year that scientists were once again able to venture into the region to examine the evidence further.

In addition to mapping, the research team used a bottomscanning video recorder, rock dredges, and temperature probes to survey the sides and crest of the submarine peak. The video survey revealed a surface that is heavily colonized by bottom-dwelling organisms.

But a dark mat of underwater life is broken along the edges of the volcano by barren patches of dark, black rock indicating that lava has flowed there. Because no life was found on these surfaces, the rock is believed to have formed fairly recently in geologic time.

Rock dredges recovered abundant, fresh, basalt, which normally would be rapidly acted upon and transformed by seawater but appeared unaffected.

Highly sensitive temperature probes moving continuously across the bottom of the volcano revealed signs of geothermal heating of seawater. The heating was noticed especially near the edges of the feature where the freshest rock was observed.

These observations, along with historical reports from mariners of discolored water in the vicinity of the submerged peak, indicate that the volcano has been active recently.

Domack said expects that there will interest among other scientists to return to the area and study the peak in more detail.

"None of us on this cruise," he noted, "are experts in volcanoes."

Peter West | NSF
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>