Massive new volcano emerges following largest underwater eruption

A massive new volcano off the east coast of the island of Mayotte has officially born following the largest submarine eruption ever recorded in the history of the world.

The new feature rises 820 meters (2,690 feet) from the seabed, now appearing after the massive seismic event that rocked the island in May 2018. It is currently the largest active underwater eruption never documented.

“Since May 10, 2018, magmatic activity has occurred off the east of Mayotte (Northern Mozambique Channel), associated with large surface displacements, very low frequency earthquakes and swarms of exceptionally deep earthquakes. authors wrote in a new study.

(Photo: Photo by Marco Garcia / Getty Images)
HAWAII – JUNE 6: Lava flows into the ocean from Kilauea Volcano in Volcanoes National Park near Volcano, Hawaii on June 6, 2004. Lava from Kilauea first reached the ocean in close proximity one year.

“We present here the geophysical and marine data of the MAYOBS1 campaign, which reveals that in May 2019, this activity formed a volcanic edifice 820 m high and about 5 km³ on the seabed. This is the largest never documented active underwater eruption. “

The birth of this giant volcanic edifice helps scientists understand Earth’s deep processes after a major volcanic eruption.

An underwater mountain that was not there before

A few days later, the volcanic event that began on May 10, 2018, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake rocked a nearby island. Scientists could not initially explain such a strange seismic wave, but they had linked it somehow to an ongoing seismic swarm that is roaring the Mayotte archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

The signals pointed to a location about 50 kilometers from the east coast of Mayotte, where a number of French government institutions immediately sent a search team to verify it; and there it was, an underwater mountain that was not there before.

Principal researcher and geophysicist Nathalie Feuillet of the University of Paris in France, with her team, began monitoring the region in February 2019 using multibeam sonar to map the seabed area and set up a seismometer network.

This network detected 17,000 seismic events between February 25 and May 6, 2019, to which are added 84 unusual events.

With these data, the researchers were able to reconstruct the formation of the new volcano.

Also read: New Nyiragongo Lava Lake Allows Volcano to ‘Breathe’, Preventing Catastrophic Limnic Eruption

Tectonic processes under the new volcano

According to the results, the formation began with a reservoir of magma deep in the asthenosphere located directly below the Earth’s lithosphere. The tectonic processes below may have caused damage to the lithosphere, draining the reservoir of magma through the crust and producing earthquake swarms in the process.

As the material moved towards the seabed, its eruption produced 5 cubic kilometers of lava, building the new volcano.

This explains the unusual finding that negates the general principle that most earthquakes are much shallower. Here, the low-frequency events were likely generated by a shallower, fluid-filled cavity in the crust that may have “been repeatedly excited by seismic stress on faults near the cavity.”

The researchers wrote that this magmatic event in Mayotte is “comparable to those observed during eruptions at the largest hot spots on Earth.”

“Future scenarios could include a further caldera collapse, underwater eruptions on the upper slope or onshore eruptions. Large lava flows and cones on the upper slope and on the coast of Mayotte indicate that this is happening. is produced in the past. “

Also read: Daintree in Australia: World’s oldest rainforest returned to its aborigines

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