The scale and magnitude of the explosive activity dwarfs anything seen on other mid-ocean ridges.
Judging by the amount of gas and molten lava blasting out of underwater volcanoes near the North Pole, the Arctic seafloor is geologically explosive. Literally.
“Explosive volatile discharge has clearly been a widespread, and ongoing, process,” according to an international team that sent unmanned probes to the scalding waters far beneath the Arctic ice.
Red-hot magma blows off the tops of dozens of submarine volcanoes
The team found that red-hot magma has been rising from deep inside the earth and blown the tops off dozens of submarine volcanoes, four km (2.4 miles) below the ice. “Jets or fountains of material were probably blasted one, maybe even two, km (.6 to 1.2 miles) up into the water,” says geophysicist Robert Sohn of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who led the expedition.
Imagine the explosive power it took to overcome water pressure that far down. According one estimate, the water pressure where the Titanic came to rest – about 2.5 miles below the surface – is more than 6,500 pounds per square inch. Imagine the force that could propel volcanic debris more than a mile upward through that kind of pressure.
The team sent three unmanned probes down through the ice to explore a small stretch of the Gakkel Ridge where a swarm of undersea earthquakes had occurred in 1999.
The probes, one of which was able to manuever just two to five meters (7 to 16 feet) above the ocean floor, discovered evidence of remarkable under-sea eruptions. They found dozens of distinctive flat-topped volcanoes whose eruptions had scattered a layer of dark, smoky volcanic glass across the seabed.
Dwarfs anything we’ve seen on other mid-ocean ridges
“The scale and magnitude of the explosive activity that we’re seeing here dwarfs anything we’ve seen on other mid-ocean ridges,” says Sohn, who studies ridges around the world. The volume of gas and lava that appears to have blasted out of the Gakkel volcanoes is “much, much higher” than that seen at other ridges.
Huge volumes of CO2 gas
The scientists say the heat released by the explosions is not contributing to the melting of the Arctic ice, but Sohn says the huge volumes of CO2 gas that belched out of the undersea volcanoes likely contributed to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. How much, he couldn’t say.
“I had the impression this whole central volcano area was oozing warm fluid,” says Henrietta Edmonds of the University of Texas, who was on the expedition tracking the plumes of warm waters rising from the spreading ridge. The plumes point to the presence of “gushing black smokers” as well as microbial and other forms of life that can thrive in scalding, mineral-rich waters that percolates out of spreading ridges, opines Edmonds.
“Not contributing to the melting of the Arctic ice”?
How in the world can they say that underwater volcanoes are “not contributing to the melting of the Arctic ice”?
Measuring some 1,800 km (1,100 miles) long, the Gakkel Ridge is made up of mile after mile after mile of huge underwater volcanoes. This chain of underwater volcanoes is far mightier than the Alps, which measure “only” 1,200 km (750 mi.) long. The entire chain of submarine volcanoes certainly dwarfs the miniscule 30 km- (18-mile-) long area that these scientists explored.
How many of these huge volcanoes are active? No one seems to know (or at least we’re not being told about it).
What is clear, however, is that this is not an isolated incident. I posted an article about the Gakkel Ridge back in 2006 entitled “Underwater volcanic activity in the Arctic Ocean far stronger than anyone imagined.”
In that article, I described the findings of the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge Expedition (AMORE), which included scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and other international institutions.
Magmatism “dramatically” higher than expected
The scientists had expected that the Gakkel ridge would exhibit “anemic” magmatism. Instead, they found “surprisingly strong magmatic activity in the West and the East of the ridge and one of the strongest hydrothermal activities ever seen at mid-ocean ridges.” Indeed, magmatism was “dramatically” higher than expected.
Hydrothermal hot springs on the seafloor were also far more abundant than predicted.
“We expected this to be a hydrothermally dead ridge, and almost every time our water measurement instrument came up, they showed evidence of hydrothermal activity, and once we even ‘saw’ an active hot spring on the sea floor,” said Dr. Jonathan Snow, the leader of the research group from the Max Planck Institute.
So let me ask you something. These volcanoes are pumping out 2,100-degree-hot basalt and scalding hot water, and yet we are to believe that they are “not contributing to the melting of the Arctic ice”?
C’mon. Let’s get real.
Could answer one question that scientists have pondered for years.
In fact, these underwater volcanoes could answer one question that scientists have been asking for years.
During the last ice age, even though much of Canada was buried beneath one to two miles of ice, studies have shown that ice cover on the Arctic Ocean remained essentially the same as today. No one has been able to explain why. I think underwater volcanic activity on the Gakkel Ridge can provide that missing explanation.
See entire article, “Study finds Arctic seabed afire with lava-spewing volcanos”:
Thanks to E Hughes for this link
* This article was published on Canada.com and in the journal Nature, on June 26, 2008. Unfortunately, I did not become aware of it until now. It is apparently of no interest to the mainstream media.