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 New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

World’s Largest Study on Allergic Rhinitis Reveals new Risk Genes

17.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Electronic stickers to streamline large-scale 'internet of things'

17.07.2018 | Information Technology

Behavior-influencing policies are critical for mass market success of low carbon vehicles

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>