Undersea volcano helps forecast other eruptions

Undersea volcano helps forecast other eruptions

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by Keely Chalmers

Bio | Email | Follow: @KeelyChalmers

kgw.com

Posted on June 14, 2012 at 6:06 AM

PORTLAND - A big discovery by researchers in Oregon is bringing them one step closer to forecasting volcanic eruptions.

About 250 miles off the Oregon Coast and three-quarters of a mile underwater sits the Axial Seamount, probably one of the most active and most studied undersea volcanoes on the planet.

In April of last year, it erupted in a massive explosion creating a lava flow more than a mile wide.

Last year, KGW reported how a team of researchers from Oregon State University had successfully forecast the eruption years in advance.

Recently, after studying that eruption in depth, the team discovered there were clear signals just hours before it blew.

"It's a very exciting time," said Oregon State University marine geologist Bob Dziak.

Dziak says in analyzing data collected from instruments on the volcano's summit, he noticed a dramatic spike in earthquake activity about two and half hours before it erupted.

"For the first time on the seafloor we've been able to demonstrate that we have just several hours before an eruption occurs to prepare for that event to happen," he explained.

Dziak says it's unclear at this point if volcanoes on land will display the same seismic signals prior to erupting, but he says this discovery is another step toward developing forecast models for all volcano's, both undersea and above ground.

And when asked if the earthquake activity on the seamount could be tied to other earthquakes such as the feared "big one," Dziak said his research does not show a link.

"We've seen several eruptions on axial seamount but it doesn't seem to translate to any activity on the subduction zone," he said.

Researchers recently put in a fiber optic cable that runs from the seamount to the Western Washington coast. Soon they'll be able to monitor the seismic activity in real time.

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