Submerged volcanoes pose tsunami threat

Jul 28, 2005
One of the submerged volcanoes found by the research teams

One of the world’s most active volcanic areas is a relatively unknown part of the seabed between New Zealand and Tonga, and could trigger a devastating tsunami at any moment, ANU geologist Professor Richard Arculus warned today.
While relatively little money is available for ocean research, submerged volcanoes pose a significant threat to communities across the Pacific, Professor Arculus said.

“Over the last six years, research teams from Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Germany have mapped a relatively narrow strip of ocean stretching about 2000 kilometres from the north of New Zealand to Tonga, and found 75 previously unknown volcanoes. Only 10 volcanoes were known in the area prior to this research,” he said.

“If any one of these underwater volcanoes either explosively erupts or collapses in a sudden movement, it would have a massive impact on the ocean, triggering a tsunami which could devastate communities across the region. There is evidence from new high-resolution images of these volcanoes that these events have happened many times in the past.

“Australia has just one research ship equipped for seabed surveys, the RV Southern Surveyor and it is required to perform many different types of research each year. It is ironic that we know far more about the topography of Mars and the Moon than about Earth, simply because much of our planet is covered in water.”

Professor Arculus said significantly more research would be required to pinpoint volcanoes that pose a significant risk of triggering a tsunami. He is one of few Australian researchers currently engaged in researching submerged volcanoes.

To help expand the ranks of researchers skilled at studying the underwater environment, ANU is launching an elite new degree next year, the Bachelor of Global and Ocean Sciences, to train a new generation of ocean scientists.

“The sea is the last great unexplored frontier on Earth. This research is important not just because it could help forewarn us of cataclysmic eruptions and tsunamis, but also because submerged volcanoes offer a direct channel to the Earth’s mantle, releasing gases and elements trapped since the planet’s early days.

“These underwater vents support Earth’s earliest life forms, anaerobic bacteria which thrive in the chemicals and reduced gases released. They also are significant markers of rare mineral resources, such as gold, copper and zinc.

“The underwater terrain around some of these volcanoes is similar to the settings that existed around Broken Hill and other important mining areas – it’s just that the rocks are many million years younger with ongoing activity.”

Source: The Australian National University

Explore further: Hubble sees 'ghost light' from dead galaxies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pakistan quake island unlikely to last: experts

Sep 25, 2013

A small island of mud and rock created by the huge earthquake that hit southwest Pakistan has fascinated locals but experts—who found methane gas rising from it—say it is unlikely to last long.

Recommended for you

Hubble sees 'ghost light' from dead galaxies

8 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has picked up the faint, ghostly glow of stars ejected from ancient galaxies that were gravitationally ripped apart several billion years ago. The mayhem happened ...

Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

8 hours ago

(Phys.org) —As it soared past Saturn's large moon Titan recently, NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

Is space tourism safe or do civilians risk health effects?

11 hours ago

Several companies are developing spacecraft designed to take ordinary citizens, not astronauts, on short trips into space. "Space tourism" and short periods of weightlessness appear to be safe for most individuals ...

An unmanned rocket exploded. So what?

14 hours ago

Sputnik was launched more than 50 years ago. Since then we have seen missions launched to Mercury, Mars and to all the planets within the solar system. We have sent a dozen men to the moon and many more to ...

When did galaxies settle down?

15 hours ago

Astronomers have long sought to understand exactly how the universe evolved from its earliest history to the cosmos we see around us in the present day. In particular, the way that galaxies form and develop ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.