National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

Acoustic response of submarine volcanoes in the Tofua Arc and northern Lau Basin to two great earthquakes

Bohnenstiehl, D.R., R.P. Dziak, H. Matsumoto, and J. Conder

Geophys. J. Int., 196(3), 1657–1675, doi: 10.1093/gji/ggt472 (2014)

Using a short-baseline hydrophone array, persistent volcanoacoustic sources are identified within the ambient noise field of the Lau Basin during the period between 2009 January and 2010 April. The submarine volcano West Mata and adjacent volcanic terrains, including the northern Matas and Volcano O, are the most active acoustic sources during the 15-month period of observation. Other areas of long-term activity include the Niua hydrothermal field, the volcanic islands of Hunga Ha'apai, Founalei, Niuatoputapu and Niuafo'ou, two seamounts located along the southern Tofua Arc and at least three unknown sites within the northern Lau Basin. Following the great Samoan earthquake on 2009 September 29, seven of the volcanoacoustic sources identified exhibit increases in the rate of acoustic detection. These changes persist over timescales of days-to-months and are observed up to 900 km from the earthquake hypocentre. At least one of the volcanoacoustic sources that did not respond to the 2009 Samoan earthquake exhibits an increase in detection rate following the great Mw 8.8 Chile earthquake that occurred at a distance of ~9500 km on 2010 February 27. These observations suggest that great earthquakes may have undocumented impacts on Earth's vast submarine volcanic systems, potentially increasing the short-term flux of magma and volcanic gas into the overlying ocean.

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