Volcanoes Discovered Underwater


Scientists have found a giant flower-like protrusion which seems to be what is commonly known today as an underwater or asphalt volcano. These underwater volcanoes spit out molten lava, but instead of hot lava pouring out to the surface, the cool water hits the lava and turns it into a tar protrusion that appears in a flower-like shape. The current volcanic anomaly was recently discovered at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

The volcanic flower was found at a depth of approximately 1,900 meters deep. The discovery team initially was searching for a shipwreck and thought they had found it when they encountered the massive volcanic flower. A robot submarine was sent to retrieve information about the shipwreck, but instead, the team was surprised to see the immense flower-shaped protusion. Flowing out of this “flower” was a substance which was a deep black in color. The science team learned later that what they had discovered was indeed an asphalt volcano.

These underwater volcanoes confirm that there is an asphalt ecosystem along the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Another report of this anomaly has been picked up on sonar radar, and is reported to be visually consistent with a volcanic flower. Scientists say that the asphalt of the volcanic flower uses the same geological processes to form as oil and gas do. It changes form when the tar meets the colder seawater.  Much like the production of gas, heating and cooling the asphalt material leaves a slimy, goo-like substance behind.

These anomalies have also been found in California and West Africa. The Gulf Coast contains a vast amount of these configurations which are filled with the asphalt like substance and are ready to be harvested and used as oil and gas to create energy. Humans are not the only one using this substance for food and energy however; tube worms have made homes within the volcanoes so that they can harvest the substance as food for energy. Other organisms found at the discovery site of the underwater volcanoes  include barnacles, anemones, corals and fish.

The shape of the volcanic anomaly could indicate that what was squeezed out before, which look like the petals of the “flower,” may still remain inside of the volcano and may be expelled in the future. On the dormant volcanoes, it is unknown when this might occur.

A similar underwater volcanic eruption occurred years ago, which was predicted using advanced technology. The eruption was off the Oregon Coastline in 2011, and had been predicted around 2006 to erupt before the year 2014 due to the seafloor pressure movements. This prediction was based on indications that the floor was moving and thus an eruption was likely to occur. The chief of the expedition currently studying another underwater eruption has said that underwater volcanoes are extremely difficult to track and monitor because not much is known about them compared to land volcanoes which have been studied more extensively.

The eruption the scientists were studying occurred in 1998 and the team had been researching the eruption since then. The equipment they use, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, are the same tools used to predict tsunamis. Both methods are very similar in that the pressure sensors measure vertical movements on the sea floor. They noticed that the volcano was rising slowly, which seemed to indicate that the magma was rising. Their predictions proved to be true when the underwater volcanoes they were studying erupted again in 2011.  Researchers who study volcanoes discovered underwater are excited to learn of the discovery of another underwater volcano, this time off the Gulf Coast of Mexico.

By Anah Ayala

Oregon State
The Chron

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