Submarine volcanoes are ruptures on the earth’s surface that are found underwater from which magma erupts. Volcanic activities on terrestrial land are widespread and accessible for study, and as a result, a lot is known about these activities. However, unlike terrestrial volcanoes, very little is known about submarine volcanic activities (Cashman & Fiske, 1991).
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It is because underwater volcanic activities, especially deep-sea volcanoes, are not easily detectable using hydrophones since water cannot boil as a result of the high pressure (above 218 atmospheres) exerted at the bottom of the sea. The occurrence of volcanic eruptions in shallow waters results in material being thrust to the air (“”Submarine Volcanoes – Crystalinks,”” 2018).
During an eruption in deep-sea volcanoes, the topmost lava comes into contact with seawater and immediately forms as crust. The underlying lava continues flowing into the crust to form a pillow lava (“”Submarine Volcanoes – Crystalinks,”” 2018). A seamount is a submerged mountain that forms as a result of this process. Seamounts build up over time and eventually reach the surface of the ocean to form islands such as the Hawaiian Island (“”Underwater Volcanoes – Universe Today,”” 2018).
The most massive underwater eruption ever recorded was the eruption of Havre Seamount in 2012. Many scientists had somehow missed citing the volcano but managed to get the large floating rock that was generated as a result. The rock covered 400 square kilometers before it dispersed (Dockrill, 2018).
Submarine volcanoes can be classified into two: those created through the slow discharge and bursting of huge lava bubbles and those formed in a quick explosion of gas bubbles. Lava affects marine life and ecosystems differently than gas which is very important to distinguish the two (Cornell, Templeton, & Staudigel, 2016).
Scientists have developed techniques that use sounds and images to identify and differentiate between the two types of eruptions. The technology was used successfully in 2009 to observe the West Mata Volcano erupt in several ways. Video and audio were used to study the sounds made by slow lava bursting and the noises made from the release of hundreds of gas bubbles (Cornell, Templeton, & Staudigel, 2016).
According to Mastin et al., violent eruptions of submerged volcanoes are not just as a result of water mixing with magma. They believe the eruption occurs in two steps: that is, the flow of magma in a channel below the water table followed by the jetting of water through the water surface. This mechanism was evident on 3 April 1977 in Alaska when a hydro magmatic blast was preceded by a lava lake draining and the crumbling of the crater walls.
The knowledge of Seamounts has triggered research on various diverse fields including volcanology, geology, geochemistry, physical oceanography, and marine biology among others.
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