More than one million underwater volcanoes – Oregon State University

And we wonder what is heating our seas.


According to Oregon State University (OSU), there may be more than one million underwater volcanoes. Here’s how their website puts it:

“If an estimate of 4,000 volcanoes per million square kilometers on the floor of the Pacific Ocean is extrapolated for all the oceans than there are more than a million submarine (underwater) volcanoes. Perhaps as many as 75,000 of these volcanoes rise over half a mile (1 kilometer) above the ocean floor.”

So far so good.

I give OSU credit for admitting that such a huge number of underwater volcanoes may lie hidden below the surface of the world’s oceans.

I also give them credit for saying that those submarine volcanoes “supply heat and chemicals to some of the Earth’s most unusual and rare ecosystems.” (I think there are more than three million underwater volcanoes pumping heat into the oceans, but at least OSU is on the right track.)

However, the OSU website goes on to say that mid-ocean ridges (underwater volcanoes) produce an estimated 75% of the annual output of magma. This number is so incredibly far off that it is laughable.

Think about it.

According to the USGS there are about 1,500 potentially active above-water volcanoes worldwide, with about 500 of them having erupted in historical time. OSU puts the number at 1,511.

How can more than one million underwater volcanoes be emitting only 75% of the amount of lava produced by 1,500 above-water volcanoes? It makes no sense whatsoever.

One million? Or three million? Whatever it turns out to be, such a huge number of underwater volcanoes must be pumping massive amounts of heat – and CO2 – into the world’s oceans.

That’s why ocean temperatures have been rising. That’s why CO2 levels have been rising.

As I say in Not by Fire but by Ice, it’s not global warming, it’s ocean warming, and it will soon lead us into the next ice age.

Thanks to Tom0Mason for this link

21 thoughts on “More than one million underwater volcanoes – Oregon State University”

  1. It’s amazing. The earth is a living thing. Without these, Earth would be a dead planet. Dr. Robert Bingham of the Univ. of Edinburgh recently announced that there were 138 volcanos under the Antarctic a mile under the ice. No doubt they contribute to the so called melt of the ice shelves. To think they only exist on the existing continents is just not sensible.

  2. 1) I would imagine most of these “volcanoes” are along the ridges that split the continents. To extrapolate the #/sq. km to the REST of the ocean floor is misleading. The rest of the ocean floor, away from the ridges have few volcanoes.

    2) What is the size of these “volcanoes”? Is it any opening, or any size, putting out magma? And what are they calling magma? Just hot gasses & steam?

    3) Why would these millions of volcanoes having any different effect on ocean temp when these very same volcanoes have most likely been on the ocean floor, doing what they are doing now, for MILLIONS of years? Are they increasing their heat outflow for some reason?

    BUT, heating the oceans creates more water vapor, which can move north and be dumped on the land creating the “Ice Age”.

    So as the oceans heat up (?) and the atmosphere cools (Sun effects) would that create the Ice Ages?

    • Each Glaciation advance starts with that exact premise, a very warm ocean, leading to high values of water vapour in the atmosphere which then Snowed out over NH Polar Regions due to Meridional weather systems. Starting with Northern Europe and spreading east towards the Himalayan range and then West to North America as the Pacific finally cools.
      Given that we are already in a long 2.6 million year Ice age, with this short, stunted, cool Holocene Interglacial intermission when compared to the previous three Interglacial, is coming rapidly to an end – 700 to 1500 years from now or a more round number the last 10% of this interglacial.
      Cooling is already under way and has been for the last 8000 years
      IMO four things are required for a major glaciation advance.
      The Earth tilt and progression in its cooling phase
      A disturbance to the Oceanic overturning current into the Atlantic, or a major T7/8 eruption like Tambora which affects the overturning current from the Pacific into the Indian Ocean and significantly reduces the flow into the Atlantic. For what happens look at the Younger Dryas
      The Sun in its Charvàtovà disordered phase
      A deep GSM like Spoorer which contain two sets of paired GSM cycles with 60 to 90 years between them

    • This might interest everyone here:
      Seabed 2030

      If it’s been posted here before, my apologies. I’m so excited I cannot stand it.

      Centurion, they define magma as magma. Molten rocks.

      In the amount of sea floor we’ve mapped, there were 4,000 volcanoes. Some active, some extinct. We have not JUST mapped the sea floor along the Ring of Fire boundaries, so we know there are volcanos “away from the ridges”.

      As far as ocean temps go, it takes millions of years for oceans this vast to “heat up”. Our ability to measure deep ocean temps is a newer development and increases would be very, very slow. Not to mention that during glaciations, the weight of all that ice pressing down on Earths crust would prevent some volcanos from erupting, while at the same time, dropping the amount of water available to be “heated” in the oceans.

      It’s a lot more complex than your questions suggest, but we’re learning more all the time!!

  3. Another concern is: Are any gasses / acids / particulates –
    from underwater Volcanoes – entering into the atmosphere and thus contributing to blocking solar radiation which in turn is a cooling factor?

  4. Even at that, if the Southern Hemisphere is any indication, that might change some places in the Northern hemisphere this winter to spring.

  5. Watchdog – that couldn’t possibly be! Its been stated that we humans are the contributing factor to the ‘warming’. (and possibly cows methane gas) so all these volcanoes couldn’t contribute anything – apart from individual ones, say in Iceland, that can affect flights around Europe because of fumes, then that one could contribute to the ‘warming’, or is that ‘cooling’? 🙂

  6. What I meant is about half departure from average cooler sea surface temperature wouldn’t surprise me this winter and spring.

  7. Not all marine volcanoes are associated with mid-ocean ridges, The Hawaiian islands, for example, are not, On the other side of the coin though, the estimate is profoundly low – I think. One point for example is that mid-ocean ridges are essentially large, continuous volcanic systems. They appear to evolve as “sheeted dike” systems, where the dikes of magma run parallel to the ridge axis. The accretion of the dikes occur as the plates separate and effectively are welded on to the edge of the plat nearest the ridge crest. The structural patterns are consistent globally and can seen on just about any detailed sonar maps of the ocean floor that shows a section with a ridge system. So, yes, Robert is very likely right about how ridiculously low that “75 %” is.

    • In consideration of mid-ocean ridge sheet-dike accretion representing the bulk of submarine volcanic activity, just a couple of thoughts about the paucity of submarine lavas…

      Within the realm of linear ridge systems, consider the possible suppression of lava eruptions due to the immense weight of overlying seawater, as well as immediate chilling of any erupted materials by cold seawater.

      Within rift fissures, perhaps continual formation of sheet dikes is the “only thing that can usually happen”, under these conditions.

  8. antarctic has developed a polynya in some spot in the middle?
    only seen by satellites
    but of course some dimwits are trying the warming dunnit already
    reckon its undersea vents doing it
    they also claimed ice levels are low
    dunno how when the temp was -59c last time i looked inland n -30 something on shorelines

  9. I am glad the OSU did this research…I haven’t opened it to read it but I will add these observations.
    As of late the Pacific NW has seen unusual earthquake activity in southern Idaho. Which if looked at from afar…would be the northern part of the Yellowstone Caldera. This could be interpreted that the caldera is filling.
    There has also been earthquake activity along the major fault line convergence near the Oregon coast line. This would a preliminary indication that the Cascadia subduction zone (that has been stuck from sliding for the past few hundred years) is having additional stress put on it from the North American plate moving.
    So having a lot of undersea volcanic activity in the pacific (mid ridge spreading) is further proof that the earths population concern about dyeing of heat or cold is misplaced. If either of these events happen, it would be a world wide population changer.

  10. I often wonder what would happen in the Arctic if the super caldera lit off again…

    The caldera is located astride and along the axis of the Gakkel Ridge rift valley with the center at 81°31′N, 120°00′E

    The caldera is 40 km wide, 80 km long and 1.2 km deep

    The expected total volume of volcanic material ejected during formation of the caldera is at least 3000 km3

    This puts it at par with the largest Quaternary calderas on Earth: the Yellowstone and Toba.

  11. Also of note is all the deep water liquid CO2 pools and lakes.
    About 10 years National geography reported on finding lakes of liquid CO2 in the deep oceans near the volcanic smokers, and although the main thrust of the piece was about the esoteric lifeforms that live around these volcanic outcrops. They did have photos of the CO2 lakes gently bubbling away and informed the reader of the strange salinity of the water around them. Sadly all reference to that report has been erased by Nat Geo (an inconvenient truth?). For obviously as there a lot of CO2 down in there that has not acidified the water, and has not killed off the esoteric life there.
    There is an indirect reference left though , note this report say such CO2 pools are rare despite very little research being carried out on the matter. Rare? Others think not —

    Liquid CO2 in the deep ocean is not an unprecedented finding. In 1990, Sakai et al. (4) noted the release of CO2 droplets at a depth of 1,400 m and a temperature of 3.8°C in a region near the mid-Okinawa Trough, and more recently, similar observations were made in the northern Mariana Arc (5). What is new is the concept that large bodies of liquid CO2 may exist as subsurface lakes in such zones. For example, the northern Mariana is a volcanic arc with little or no sediment deposition. Thus, one does not expect to find sediment-hosted lakes such as are reported by Inagaki et al. (1). How many such “lakes” are there? How stable are they, and are they potential players in the global carbon cycle? Given our paucity of knowledge about such systems, it is fair to say that these questions remain unanswered. It may be of great interest to answer such questions for a variety of different reasons, as outlined below.

    And yet others would like to ‘decorbonize’ our atmosphere for no good reason, by storing liquid CO2 in the deep oceans.

    So acidifying the oceans with CO2 was never a problem (unless you remove all the Al, Ca and other metallic buffering salts in there).

  12. Also from Oregon State:

    “It is very easy to try to throw around some partially baked ideas about volcanism to try to explain the changing in the ocean temperature worldwide, but they would require extraordinary circumstances where ocean volcanic activity was increasing exactly when human carbon dioxide production was also increasing. Sorry, the subsurface volcanoes are no source for your ocean heating (and if I had the time, I’d calculate how much energy would take to heat all the oceans by 0.5C – it is bound to be more than you can get out of a few hundred thousand Ruapehus).””

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