Satellite images detect underwater volcanic eruptions

Jan 29, 2014
Degassing lava erupts onto the seafloor at NW Rota-1 volcano, creating a billowing cloudy plume that is extremely acidic, and is full of carbon dioxide and sulfur. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

(Phys.org) —Oregon State University scientists have discovered how to pinpoint the time and place of underwater volcanic eruptions using satellite images.

Volcanic eruptions on the can spew large amounts of pumice and , as well as that brings nutrients to the surface, resulting in plumes of algae. The plumes are picked up as shades of green in .

"Some volcanic eruptions take place hundreds of feet below water and show no changes to the sea surface to the naked eye," said Robert O'Malley, an OSU research assistant in botany and plant pathology in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "It's amazing an orbiting satellite can detect color changes that indicate an eruption has taken place. Many times you can't spot an eruption if you were floating over it in a boat."

Underwater volcanic eruptions are rarely detected, so little is known about them, according to Mike Behrenfeld, an OSU expert in and and one of the researchers on the project.

"Satellite measurements of the planet are made every day," Behrenfeld said, "so this new method provides another tool for spotting these dramatic events that affect life in the oceans."

O'Malley and Behrenfeld developed a process for analyzing low-resolution images to show evidence of eruptions, which can extend over thousands of square miles, by matching five known eruptions with data from NASA satellites.

"We measured sunlight going into the ocean interacting with particles consistent with underwater ," said O'Malley. "From there, we found we could connect color data with documented eruptions. Now we have a better idea of what to look for in the data when we don't know about the eruption first."

Next, the researchers plan to test how well their method works as eruptions are happening. Further study will also focus on the depth at which eruptions can be detected.

The study was published in the journal Remote Sensing of the Environment.

Explore further: Ground-breaking work sheds new light on volcanic activity

More information: Read the study here: ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/handle/1957/45229

Related Stories

Taking the 'pulse' of volcanoes using satellite images

Nov 05, 2012

A new study by scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science uses Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data to investigate deformation prior to the eruption of active ...

Ocean cores reveal eruption dynamics

Mar 27, 2013

(Phys.org) —Using information gathered from samples of deep sea sediments, researchers from the University of Bristol report new findings regarding the dynamics of the eruption of Mount Tambora, Indonesia ...

Neolithic mural may depict ancient eruption

Jan 08, 2014

Volcanic rock dating suggests the painting of a Çatalhöyük mural may have overlapped with an eruption in Turkey according to results published January 8, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Axe ...

Recommended for you

New study outlines 'water world' theory of life's origins

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed ...

Agriculture's growing effects on rain

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Increased agricultural activity is a rain taker, not a rain maker, according to researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and their collaborators at the University of California Los ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.