Energetics of volcanic eruptions in the deep oceans: linking ash dispersal and megaplume generation

29 January 2021
Sam Pegler

Deep-marine volcanism drives Earth's most energetic transfers of heat and mass between the crust and the oceans. Yet little is known of the primary source and intensity of the energy release that occurs during seafloor volcanic events owing to the lack of direct observations. Seafloor magmatic activity has nonetheless been correlated in time with the appearance of massive plumes of hydrothermal fluid known as megaplumes. However, the mechanism by which megaplumes form remains a mystery. By utilising observations of pyroclastic deposits on the seafloor, we show that their dispersal required an energy discharge that is sufficiently powerful (1-2 TW) to form a hydrothermal discharge with characteristics that align precisely with those of megaplumes observed to date. The result produces a conclusive link between tephra production, magma extrusion, tephra dispersal and megaplume production. However, the energy flux is too high to be explained by a purely volcanic source (lava heating), and we use our constraints to suggest other more plausible mechanisms for megaplume creation. The talk will cover a combination of new fluid mechanical fundamentals in volcanic transport processes, inversion methods and their implications for volcanism in the deep oceans.

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  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar