Scientists link underwater volcanic eruptions to climate change

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Scientists link underwater volcanic eruptions to climate change

MOSCOW, Feb. 9 — Volcanic eruptions under the sea floor may well have an impact on climate change, according to a new study published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal.

“People have ignored seafloor volcanoes on the idea that their influence is small, but that’s because they are assumed to be in a steady state, which they’re not,” Maya Tolstoy, a geophysicist from the Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the author of the study, said.

2015_0209_underwatervolcano2

Earlier, scientists suggested that seafloor volcanoes ooze lava at relatively steady rates, but the new study found that these volcanoes erupt in pulses and these eruptions follow regular cycles that can range from as short as two weeks to as long as 100,000 years.

The new survey reveals almost all undersea eruptions recorded in the past twenty five years occur in the first six months of the year, when the Earth draws away from the sun.

Tolstoy noted that scientists had typically ignored the impact of underwater eruptions on predicting the ocean and atmospheric conditions in the future.

“Seafloor spreading is considered a small but steady contributor of CO2 to climate cycles on the 100 kyr time scale, however this assumes a consistent short-term eruption rate. Pulsing of seafloor volcanic activity may feed back into climate cycles, possibly contributing to glacial and inter-glacial cycles, the abrupt end of ice ages, and dominance of the 100 kyr cycle,” Tolstoy said.

The implication of the study is that as the sea levels rise because of climate change, they could initiate undersea volcanic activity, which could in turn eventually affect the climate in the future.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons showing scheme of a submarine eruption. 1. Water vapor cloud 2. Water 3. Stratum 4. Lava flow 5. Magma conduit 6. Magma chamber 7. Dike 8. Pillow lava

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