From: Scott Sincoff, ENN
Published June 10, 2012 02:51 PM

Scientists Discover Trigger For Erupting Underwater Volcano

Scientists now say the undersea volcano Axial Seamount gave clear signals hours before its imminent eruption in 2011. The volcano, located in the Pacific Ocean about 250 miles off of the Oregon coastline, was correctly forecasted to erupt in 2011 by the same research team based at Oregon State University.



The research team led by Dr. Bill Chadwick stated in their research that they observed the undersea volcano's inflation via gradual magma intrusion for years. The team's new research states that data from underwater hydrophones show an abrupt spike in seismic energy about 2.6 hours before the eruption started. Chadwick's team said that this new analysis could lead to determine better accuracy in short-term forecasts for undersea volcanoes.

The team also states that Axial could erupt once again, as soon as the year 2018. The team discovered this information based off of the cyclic pattern of ground deformation measurements from bottom pressure recorders.

Chadwick, a geologist at Oregon State University specifically stated that the connection evaluating seismicity, seafloor deformation and the intrusion of magma has never been demonstrated at a submarine volcano. He also said that the multiple methods of observation provide fascinating new insights.

"Axial Seamount is unique in that it is one of the few places in the world where a long-term monitoring record exists at an undersea volcano – and we can now make sense of its patterns," said Chadwick, who works out of Oregon State's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore. "We've been studying the site for years and the uplift of the seafloor has been gradual and steady beginning in about 2000, two years after it last erupted."

"But the rate of inflation from magma went from gradual to rapid about 4-5 months before the eruption," added Chadwick. "It expanded at roughly triple the rate, giving a clue that the next eruption was coming."

The research's results, which were funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), are being published this week in three separate articles in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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