The most powerful volcanic eruptions occur underwater and have different sounds


Over 70% of volcanic activity on Earth is recorded in the deep oceans.

The explosive power of underwater volcanoes is much larger than those at the surface of Planet Earth. Now scientists have managed to record two of these eruptions and they sound really different!

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The orange glow of magma with its sulfur-laden plume. The area shown in this image is approximately six feet across in an eruptive area a football field that runs along the summit of underwater volcano West Mata.
Photo: NSF, NOAA, UW, and WHOI

It is pretty hard to realize that most volcanic activity – about 75% – is recorded at the bottom of ocean! But it’s fact! And it’s also hard to imagine that underwater eruptions are normally more powerful than surface volcanoes… Probably because we don’t see them, isn’t it?

But sometimes, underwater volcano eruptions create new islands.

Although underwater volcanoes may impact significantly the chemical composition of the oceans and/ or generate natural hazards, they have hardly been investigated.

According to a new study published in the Journal Geophysical Research Letters, only two underwater eruptions have been recorded to date. And these two eruptions have emitted distinct noises thus revealing that the character of magmatic events was very different.

Researchers have been able to study the sound of an active volcano, the West Mata, located at a depth of 1200 meters, 200 kilometers from Samoa. With the help of a remote control vehicle, the scientists managed to analyze West Mata’s activity for a whole year, in particular two of its openings: Prometheus and Hades.

Both openings produce a different sound. Hades emits bubbles filled with gas washed 1-2 meters in diameter, while Prometheus generates “violent explosions” of 1-5 minutes.

Read the entire publication about the underwater volcano sound here!

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