Volcanic eruptions can release enormous amounts of energy, according to a new study from the University of Leeds. It is enough to feed the entire population of the United States and even some continents.
Eruptions of deep-sea volcanoes have long been considered useless in terms of energy release. Scientists note: among their colleagues, it was believed that terrestrial volcanoes look impressive, they scatter ash around the environment, and deep-sea eruptions lead only to slowly moving lava flows.
But data collected by remotely controlled vehicles in the depths of the northeastern Pacific Ocean and analyzed by scientists at the University of Leeds has revealed a connection between the way ash is dispersed during underwater eruptions and the creation of large and powerful streams of heated water rising from the ocean floor (scientists call them megatubes).
They contain hot water that is rich in chemicals. The dimensions of the megatubes are enormous, the volume of water in them is equivalent to 40 million Olympic swimming pools. They have been found above various underwater volcanoes, but their origin remains unknown. New research shows that they form quickly during lava eruptions.
Scientists have developed a mathematical model showing how the ash of underwater eruptions spreads over a distance of several kilometers from the volcano. They used a model of ash deposited from a historic underwater eruption to reconstruct its dynamics. This showed that the rate of energy released and needed to transport ash over long distances is greater than the energy consumed by the entire US population.
Research has shown that underwater eruptions lead to the formation of megatubes, but the release of energy is so rapid that it cannot be provided from molten lava alone. Instead, the study concludes that underwater volcanic eruptions result in the rapid pouring of hot fluids into the earth’s crust.