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Posts tagged ‘volcanoes’

31
Aug
Science

NSF Ocean Observatories Initiative Streams Live Video of Undersea Volcano

Cameras in the ocean investigate aftermath of seafloor volcanic eruption

Photo of Axial Seamount subshowing showing vent surrounded with bacterial mats.

It looks like something out of a science fiction movie — a strange hole in the lava with white snowlike areas surrounding it.  It’s not science fiction, but rather signs of life deep in the ocean following a volcanic eruption.  The most surprising thing about this volcano is that the eruption actually happened but nobody noticed it.

 

Axial Seamount is an area that’s been under study by scientists since 1998.  This area, a combined volcano and sea mount is located about 265 miles off the Oregon coast and far below the surface.  This youngest member of an Alaskan chain of seamounts erupted in April and spewed massive amounts of lava — but nobody noticed for months.

 

The event was discovered in July by Oregon State University geologist William Chadwick, who quickly got in touch with members of a joint team of University of Washington (UW) scientists and engineers currently on an OOI survey expedition close to the recent eruption.  Now, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) is headed out to survey the site and stream live video of the volcano.

 

The seamount is a very seismically active center and the site of the New Millenium Observatory (NeMO), which studies volcanic activities and the effect they have on hydrothermal vent sea life.  In addition to setting up a video stream, scientists and engineers will deploy a network of sensors in the ocean at this site that will allow open access to data from the entire water column — air to seafloor.

 

The Axial eruption is giving scientists a chance to use this new monitoring technology in innovative ways.  Data they collect will help them decide how to construct long-term observatories at active spots on the seafloor.  Viewers of the live feed will find Axial Seamount fairly quiet at the moment, with pillows of cooling lava flows blanketing the seafloor.  Scientists are especially interested in what kinds of life forms colonize the new lava and how the environment changes.

 

Related Websites
NSF Ocean Observatories Initiative: http://www.oceanobservatories.org/
A New Look Beneath the Waves: Ocean Observatories Initiative Gets Underway: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=115444
Visions ’11 Expedition: http://www.ooi.washington.edu/visions11