The VENTS Geology Program aims to understand how submarine volcanic activity affects hydrothermal venting and life in the oceans. The ultimate heat source for all hydrothermal venting is molten rock within the Earth. Individual volcanic events bring this heat close to the surface where it can be released into the ocean, along with chemicals that sustain unique biological environments, both on and below the seafloor. Therefore, we are especially interested in studying the sites of recent submarine eruptions.
NOAA Vents scientists discovered that an eruption occurred at Axial Seamount in April 2011 during an expedition to the site on board the R/V Atlantis with ROV Jason, jointly funded by NOAA and the National Science Foundation. The timing of this eruption had been anticipated which makes this the first successful forecast of a submarine eruption. Seafloor monitoring instruments recorded earthquakes and subsidence of the seafloor during the eruption, but a few were caught in the new lava flow. (Read more)
Recently, we made the first direct observations of deep-sea submarine eruptions at NW Rota volcano in the Mariana Arc and at W Mata volcano in the NE Lau Basin. These are both sites an on-going research (see the Expeditions page for the most recent visits to these volcanoes).
We are also developing seafloor instruments for long-term monitoring of submarine volcanoes at cabled observatories. One BPR/Tilt instrument is being tested at the MARS cabled observatory, and realtime data can be viewed here. We plan to deploy instruments like this one at Axial Seamount as part of the NE Pacific cabled observatory, which will be part of the National Science Foundation's Ocean Observatories Initiative.
Check out our interactive education and outreach web pages:
NeMO web site (on-going research at a seafloor observatory at Axial Volcano)NeMO Dive! site (simulated dive to the seafloor with a remotely operated vehicle)