Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fiery volcano offers geologic glimpse into land that time forgot

20.10.2011
Video clip of lava bubbles posted

The first scientists to witness exploding rock and molten lava from a deep sea volcano, seen during a 2009 expedition, report that the eruption was near a tear in the Earth's crust that is mimicking the birth of a subduction zone.


The operations area at West Mata volcano during the 2009 expedition is part of the Lau Basin, bounded by Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. Credit: NSF/NOAA

Scientists on the expedition collected boninite, a rare, chemically distinct lava that accompanies the formation of Earth's subduction zones.

Nobody has ever collected fresh boninite and scientists never had the opportunity to monitor its eruption before, said Joseph Resing, University of Washington oceanographer and lead author of an online article on the findings in Nature Geoscience. Earth's current subduction zones are continually evolving but most formed 5 million to 200 million years ago. Scientists have only been able to study boninite collected from long-dead, relic volcanos millions of years old.

Resing was chief scientist on the expedition, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation, that pinpointed the location of the West Mata volcano, erupting 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) below the surface in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. Watch clip of eruption on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaKnWF5ORsU.

"Everything about the eruption itself – how fast, how intense, the ratio of lava to explosive fragments, the amount and composition of gas released – is new to us," said co-author Kenneth Rubin, University of Hawaii geologist. "Plus, having a young, fresh occurrence of this very rare rock type to study gives us the opportunity to examine subtle chemical and mineralogical variations in a pristine specimen."

At subduction zones the oceanic crust on one tectonic plate slides beneath another, producing abundant volcanism and contributing heat, gases and mineral-laden fluids to ocean waters. Scientists have long studied the impact of subduction zones on geological and geochemical cycles. To puzzle out how subduction zones form and evolve they study inactive contemporary marine volcanos that do not produce boninite and they collect and study boninite lavas collected on land and examine cores collected from the deep sea.

"West Mata lies above the subducting Pacific plate and is part of the rapidly expanding Lau Basin, which is bounded by Samoa, Tonga and Fiji," Resing said. "The large bend at the northern end of the Tonga trench produces a tear in the Pacific plate and creates unusual lavas that usually only form at very young subduction zones."

Conditions are right for boninite to form, there's lots of seawater released from subducting rock that mixes into relatively shallow mantle that has previously melted, causing the mantle to remelt at high temperatures. Boninite lavas are believed to be among the hottest from volcanos that erupt on Earth.

"What makes this exciting is how uncommon these eruptions of boninite are, both now and in the past," Rubin said. "Locked within the boninite is critical information about the rates and magnitudes of subduction-zone magmatism and global geochemical cycles."

The scientists writing in Nature Geoscience think the release of gaseous water, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide from the slab is the reason the eruption was so explosive. No one realized such energetic eruptions happened so deep, Resing says. Streams of red and gold lava 35 feet long shot through the water and lava-skinned bubbles some three feet across emerged.

West Mata, which the scientists estimate has been erupting for at least three years, and eight other elongated volcanoes that overlap each other in the northeast Lau Basin sit within one of the most magmatically active areas on Earth, Resing says.

"The basin may prove an important place to study submarine volcanic eruptions in relation to early stages of subduction," he said.

Rubin and Robert Embley, with NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Newport, Ore., and co-author on the paper, will return to the area in November for further study and to try to determine if the volcano is still actively erupting.

"Observing the eruption in real time was a rare and special opportunity because we know so little about how submarine volcanic activity behaves," Embley said. "This is one of only a handful of 'glimpses' of the process we've had to date and is the first time we've actually observed natural submarine light from the glowing magma."

Resing's UW appointment is through NOAA and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Oceans based at the UW. Other co-authors from the UW and the joint institute are Marvin Lilley, David Butterfield and Nathaniel Buck. Other co-authors are from NOAA-Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratories, Oregon State University, ETH Zurich, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutions, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, University of Tulsa, Oregon Health & Science University and Portland State University.

The project was funded by NSF, NOAA and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

For more information:

Resing,
206-526-6184,
resing@uw.edu
Rubin,
808-956-8973,
krubin@hawaii.edu
Embley,
541-867-0275,
robert.w.embley@noaa.gov
Video of erupting lava
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaKnWF5ORsU
Images available
http://www.flickr.com/photos/63901270@N06/sets/72157627806806889/
Suggested websites
2009 expedition
UW release, 2009 expedition
http://www.washington.edu/news/archive/id/54413
NOAA, 2009 expedition
http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/09laubasin/welcome.html
NSF, 2009 expedition
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=116098
Resing
http://jisao.washington.edu/node/470
Nature Geoscience abstract
http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ngeo1275.html
West Mata
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Mata
Rubin
http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/krubin/kenchron.html
Embley
http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/vents/staff/embley.html
JISAO
http://www.jisao.washington.edu/
Co-authors and affiliations
http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ngeo1275.html

Sandra Hines | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uw.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle
22.06.2018 | Technical University of Denmark

nachricht Polar ice may be softer than we thought
22.06.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Graphene assembled film shows higher thermal conductivity than graphite film

22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle

22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>