As tectonic plates move away from each other, they pull the earth’s crust apart. When these fissures open, magma erupts into the ocean, forming new volcanoes. The magma builds up to form ridges in the middle of the ocean. Since they are so far away and so deep, we don’t know much about these volcanoes …yet. Isobel Yeo of the Helmholtz Institute for Ocean Research Kiel tells us about recent GEOMAR research that is revealing more about these volcanoes.
Using a torpedo-like underwater autonomous robot, they were able to capture thousands of high-resolution photos of the seafloor, never seen in such detail before. The pictures, featured here, are of such high quality that the seafloor can now be surveyed in much the same way geologists do on land.
"These observations, combined with the spatial extents of the flows, mean we can work out how much lava erupted where and when," Yeo says.
The images reaffirm that the lava flows are relatively young. They also show that there are clear periods of inactivity, where no eruptions occurred for thousands of years.