Thursday, August 11, 2011

Surprise Underwater Volcanic Eruption Discovered

Underwater Volcanic
An undersea volcano has erupted off the coast of Oregon, spewing forth a layer of lava  more than 12 feet (4 meters) thick in some places, and opening up deep vents that belch forth a cloudy stew of hot water and microbes from deep inside the Earth.

Scientists uncovered evidence of the early April eruption on a routine expedition in late July to the Axial Seamount, an underwater volcano that stands 250 miles (400 kilometers) off the Oregon coast.

 The discovery came as a surprise, as researchers attempted to recover instruments they'd left behind to monitor the peak a year earlier. When the researchers hefted a seafaring robotic vehicle overboard to fetch the instruments, the feed from the onboard camera sent back images of an alien seafloor landscape.

"At first we were really confused, and thought we were in the wrong place," said Bill Chadwick, a geologist with Oregon State University. "Finally we figured out we were in the right place but the whole seafloor had changed, and that's why we couldn't recognize anything. All of a sudden it hit us that, wow, there had been an eruption. So it was very exciting."

In addition to producing hardened lakes of blobby lava, in places more than a mile (1.6 km) across, the eruption changed the architecture of the region's seafloor hot springs. Read More...


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