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Huge underwater megaplumes of hot water caused by volcanic eruptions can power up the entire US for days

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Kamal Saini
Kamal S. has been Journalist and Writer for Business, Hardware and Gadgets at Revyuh.com since 2018. He deals with B2b, Funding, Blockchain, Law, IT security, privacy, surveillance, digital self-defense and network policy. As part of his studies of political science, sociology and law, he researched the impact of technology on human coexistence. Email: kamal (at) revyuh (dot) com

Huge underwater “megaplumes” of hot water triggered by volcanic eruptions are powerful enough to supply energy to the entire United States for days, reveals a new study.

The enormous columns of water, enough to fill 40 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, which rise up from the sea floor had remained a mystery to scientists until now.

Previously, they believed submarine volcanoes only produced slow-moving lava flows and were relatively uninteresting.

But using data gathered by remotely controlled vehicles scanning the floor of the North East Pacific, researchers from the University of Leeds have developed a mathematical model which shows how ash from these submarine eruptions spreads several kilometers from the volcano.

They used the ash pattern deposited by a historic submarine eruption to reconstruct its dynamics and showed the rate of energy needed to carry ash was the same as the power used by the whole of the USA.

The research was carried out by Dr Sam Pegler, from the School of Mathematics and Dr David Ferguson, from the School of Earth and Environment and is being published today in the journal Nature Communications.

Dr Ferguson said:

Our results constrain the rate of energy release, or power, and show that during the eruption the power output is sufficient to run the US for that period of time, probably on the order of hours or days – however long it lasts – we don’t know precisely.

The majority of Earth’s volcanic activity occurs underwater, mostly at depths of several kilometers in the deep ocean but, in contrast to terrestrial volcanoes, even detecting that an eruption has occurred on the seafloor is extremely challenging.

Consequently, there remains much for scientists to learn about submarine volcanism and its effects on the marine environment.

While the research showed that submarine eruptions cause megaplumes to form, but the release of energy is so rapid that it can’t be supplied from the erupted molten lava alone.

Instead, the researchers believe that submarine volcanic eruptions lead to the rapid emptying of reservoirs of hot fluids within the earth’s crust.

As the magma forces its way upwards towards the seafloor, it drives this hot fluid with it.

Dr Pegler added:

Our work provides evidence that megaplumes are directly linked to the eruption of lava and are responsible for transporting volcanic ash in the deep ocean.

It also shows that plumes must have formed in a matter of hours, creating an immense rate of energy release.

Dr Ferguson added:

Observing a submarine eruption in person remains extremely difficult but the development of instruments based on the seafloor means data can be streamed live as the activity occurs.

Efforts like these, in concert with continued mapping and sampling of the ocean floor, mean the volcanic character of our oceans is slowly being revealed.

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