Discovering, measuring, understanding, and predicting impacts of natural chemical, biological, and geological processes on the oceanic web of life.
The Earth-Ocean Interactions Program contributes to NOAA’s objective of achieving a holistic understanding of marine ecosystems by exploring and characterizing hydrothermal vents, their impacts on the global ocean, and their unique chemosynthetic biological communities. This research includes ecosystem characterization, resource assessment, environmental observation, and technology development.
PMEL scientists on a September 2013 expedition to Axial Seamount documented that the center of the volcano’s caldera has reinflated over 1.5 meters (>5 feet) since its last eruption in April 2011, more than was expected. This means that the volcano has already recovered 65% of the -2.4 meters that it deflated in 2011, and that it could be ready to erupt again within just a few more years, if this rate of inflation continues.
The 2012 expedition aboard the R/V Revelle used the MARUM QUEST 4000 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) investigating multiple sites on the northernmost spreading centers, magmatic arc and backarc regions of the northern Lau basin. The 12 dives discovered many new submarine hot springs, underwater fumaroles and several new species of chemosynthetic fauna. Details of the exciting discoveries made during this cruise are at NOAA Ocean Explorer website.
NOAA PMEL scientists recently published papers in the journal Nature Geoscience that show, for the first time, that precursory signals were recorded by seafloor instruments before an undersea volcanic eruption at Axial Seamount in 2011. The work was jointly funded by NOAA, the National Science Foundation, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Such signals could be used to issue long-term and short-term forecasts of future eruptions at the site.