Bermuda Volcano Formed In a Way That Has Never Been Seen Anywhere Else On Earth

A volcano beneath Bermuda formed in a way that has never been seen before, scientists have discovered. The volcano appears to have been created by material rising up from a region deep beneath Earth’s surface—the transition zone.

The transition zone is the region between the upper and lower mantle. It extends between 250 and 400 miles beneath the surface of the planet and is rich in water, crystals and melted rock.

Volcanoes normally form when the tectonic plates are pushed together or pulled apart, producing a crack in Earth’s surface where magma can escape. They can also form at “hotspots,” where mantle plumes rise up and melt a hole in the plate—Hawaii is an example of this.

Now, researchers have found volcanoes can also form when material moves up from the transition zone. The team believes there was a disturbance in the transition zone that forced the material in this layer to melt and move up towards the surface. Their findings are published in the journal Nature.

The researchers were analyzing a now dormant volcano beneath the Atlantic Ocean that was responsible for the formation of Bermuda. They were looking at the chemical composition of a 2,600-foot core sample—by understanding its makeup they could build a picture of Bermuda’s volcanic history.

“Before our work, Bermuda has been interpreted as the result of a deep thermal anomaly in the Earth’s mantle, but there was no direct data to support this. This is due to the fact that the volcanic edifice is completely covered by limestone,” Cornell’s Esteban Gazel, one of the study authors, told Newsweek.

In a statement, he said they were expecting to show that the volcano was a mantle plume formation like Hawaii. This was not what they found, however. The measurements taken from the core sample were unlike anything seen before, suggesting the lava came from a previously unidentified source.

The samples contained signatures from the transition zone. Compared to samples taken from subduction zones, there was more water trapped in the crystals. The transition zone is known to contain vast quantities of water—one study calculated there is three times as much water in this region of Earth than is present in all the world’s oceans.

“I first suspected that Bermuda’s volcanic past was special as I sampled the core and noticed the diverse textures and mineralogy preserved in the different lava flows,” lead author Sarah Mazza, from the University of Münster, Germany, said in the statement. “We quickly confirmed extreme enrichments in trace element compositions. It was exciting going over our first results … the mysteries of Bermuda started to unfold.”

Numerical models developed by the team indicate a disturbance in the transition zone forced the material up. This is thought to have taken place about 30 million years ago and provided the foundation that Bermuda sits on today.

“We found a new way to make volcanoes,” Gazel said in the statement. “This is the first time we found a clear indication from the transition zone deep in the Earth’s mantle that volcanoes can form this way.”

The researchers believe there will be other examples of volcanoes being formed in this way. “With this work we can demonstrate that the Earth’s transition zone is an extreme chemical reservoir,” Gazel said. “We are just now beginning to recognize its importance in terms of global geodynamics and even volcanism.”

Speaking to Newsweek, he added: “I think many hotspot locations … are not deeply rooted to the core-mantle boundary probably have past similar to Bermuda’s.”

Australian Scientists Help With Key Volcano Study Using Hawaii’s Kilauea Disaster

Australian scientists have helped shed new light on volcanic eruptions, using Hawaii’s months-long Kilauea disaster which destroyed hundreds of homes. After analysing the eruption on Hawaii’s Big Island beginning in May 2018, researchers from France, the UK, US and Tasmania say changes in the speed of vibrations travelling through a volcano could be used to pinpoint its imminent eruption.

Ten days before the eruption of Kilauea, the University of Tasmania’s Gerrit Olivier says he and his colleagues found these vibrations inside the volcano’s magma chamber changed dramatically.

“The volcano is constantly bulging and contracting as the pressure inside the magma chamber changes,” Dr Oliver said.

“The behaviour of the seismic wave speeds are initially quite predictable.

“When the volcano bulges, the speed at which the vibrations travel through the volcano increase slightly as material is compressed. On the other hand, when the volcano contracts these wave speeds decrease.”

Days before the May 3 eruption, Kilauea was still bulging because of a build-up of pressure, but the vibrations stopped speeding up and instead slowed right down.

“This is a good indicator that the volcano isn’t able to sustain the pressure inside the magma chamber anymore, that the bulge is too big and it starts breaking the material around the magma chamber which ultimately leads to the eruption,” Dr Oliver said.

These changes have been recorded before, but the study said it was the first time it showed them occurring because of a weakening of material inside the volcano just before an eruption.

Dr Oliver and his colleagues hope this method could be used to help predict when other volcanoes will erupt, after Kilauea spewed out 800 million cubic metres of lava destroying more than 700 homes.

Mysterious Volcanic Ash Layer From 29,000 Years Ago Traced To Volcano In Naples

Researchers from the University of Oxford have traced the origin of a pre-historic eruption that blanketed the Mediterranean region in ash 29,000 years ago to Naples’ lesser-known volcano Campi Flegrei, located immediately to the west of the city.

Since the late 1970s scientists have identified the same pre-historic volcanic ash layer in sediment cores extracted from sites ranging across 150,000 square kilometres of the central Mediterranean. This widespread ash layer, dated at 29,000 years ago, blanketed the region and clearly indicated a large volcanic eruption. Whilst the region is well known for its many active volcanoes, such as Mount Vesuvius which famously destroyed Pompeii in 79 AD, scientists had failed to confidently match this older, far-ranging ash deposit to a specific volcano or eruption.

The research, led by Dr Paul Albert, a Research Fellow in the School of Archaeology, has now identified an ash rich-eruption deposit within the city of Naples which was produced by Campi Flegrei volcano and has a chemical composition that matches the prehistoric ash layer traced across the Mediterranean region. The work was done in partnership with international researchers, including those from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), the National Research Council in Italy, the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement in France, and the Berkeley Geochronology Centre in the USA.

“Part of the challenge of reliably attributing this major ash fall event to Campi Flegrei volcano has been that there is limited evidence for a large eruption close to the volcano,” says Albert. “This is in part because a more recent large-scale eruption of the volcano buried the Naples area in a thick ash deposit, largely destroying or concealing the evidence of this older event,” says Albert.

The team used a computer-based ash dispersal model to reconstruct the size of the eruption. “By linking the thickness of the ash deposits found in Naples, to those preserved in cores from across the central Mediterranean, the model was able to demonstrate and provide important constraints on the size of this large magnitude eruption,” says Albert.

This research positions the timing of this previously un-reported large-scale eruption of Campi Flegrei between two well-known large-scale eruptions of the volcano, at 15,000 and 40,000 years ago, drastically reducing the reoccurrence interval of large magnitude eruptions at the volcano.

The research, published today in the journal Geology, also highlights the importance of considering ash fall events preserved well away from the volcano when reconstructing the timing and scale of past explosive eruptions. “Ash fall preserved hundreds of kilometers away from the volcano has been critical here in the identification and reconstruction of this large eruption at Campi Flegrei,” says Albert.

Major Deep Carbon Sink Linked To Microbes Found Near Volcano Chains

Up to about 19 percent more carbon dioxide than previously believed is removed naturally and stored underground between coastal trenches and inland chains of volcanoes, keeping the greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere, according to a study in the journal Nature.

Surprisingly, subsurface microbes play a role in storing vast amounts of carbon by incorporating it in their biomass and possibly by helping to form calcite, a mineral made of calcium carbonate, Rutgers and other scientists found. Greater knowledge of the long-term impact of volcanoes on carbon dioxide and how it may be buffered by chemical and biological processes is critical for evaluating natural and human impacts on the climate. Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas linked to global warming.

“Our study revealed a new way that tiny microorganisms can have an outsized impact on a large-scale geological process and the Earth’s climate,” said co-author Donato Giovannelli, a visiting scientist and former post-doc in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. He is now at the University of Naples in Italy.

Giovannelli is a principal investigator for the interdisciplinary study, which involves 27 institutions in six nations. Professor Costantino Vetriani in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences and Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences is one of the Rutgers co-authors. The study covers how microbes alter the flow of volatile substances that include carbon, which can change from a solid or liquid to a vapor, in subduction zones. Such zones are where two tectonic plates collide, with the denser plate sinking and moving material from the surface into Earth’s interior.

The subduction, or geological process, creates deep-sea trenches and volcanic arcs, or chains of volcanoes, at the boundary of tectonic plates. Examples are in Japan and South and Central America. Arc volcanoes are hot spots for carbon dioxide emissions that re-enter the atmosphere from subducted material, which consists of marine sediment, oceanic crust and mantle rocks, Giovannelli said. The approximately 1,800-mile-thick mantle of semi-solid hot rock lies beneath the Earth’s crust.

The Earth’s core, mantle and crust account for 90 percent of carbon. The other 10 percent is in the ocean, biosphere and atmosphere. The subduction zone connects the Earth’s surface with its interior, and knowing how carbon moves between them is important in understanding one of the key processes on Earth and regulating the climate over tens of millions of years.

The study focused on the Nicoya Peninsula area of Costa Rica. The scientists investigated the area between the trench and the volcanic arc – the so-called forearc. The research reveals that volcanic forearc are a previously unrecognized deep sink for carbon dioxide.

Volcano In Indonesia’s Bali Erupts, Triggering Rains Of Ashes

Mount Agung volcano in Bali resort Island of central Indonesia on Sunday spewed a column of ashes by up to two km onto the sky, leaving rains of ashes, a disaster agency official said.

Thousands of masks have been distributed to the communities amid the fears of the ashes impacting human respiratory, spokesman of national disaster management agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

The eruption occurred at 08:23 a.m. local time with belching of ash and smoke heading southwest of the crater, he said.

No halt of flight however took place at the I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport, said the official.

Rains of ashes with an intensity ranging from thin to thick have been pouring down in the districts of Karang Asem, Klungkung and Bangli, he added.

No report of casualty has so far been reached after the eruption, said Sutopo.

Mount Agung alert status’s remains at the second highest level with no-go zone at four km from the crater.

Mount Agung is situated in Karangasem district and about 70 km from tourist hub Kuta. In its last eruption in 1963, more than 1,100 people were killed.

Scientists Monitor Increased Activity At Big Island Volcano

HILO, Hawaii – Scientists in Hawaii are monitoring increasing activity surrounding one of the Big Island’s volcanoes.

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory is closely monitoring Mauna Loa because conditions have risen to levels comparable to a more active period between 2014 and 2017, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.

It is too early to predict possible outcomes of Mauna Loa’s activity, according to Tina Neal, the observatory’s scientist-in-charge.

“An eruption could be anywhere from months to years away,” Neal said. “But we do know that it’s not days or weeks away.”

There have been increased earthquakes and ground deformation around Mauna Loa’s summit, she said.

Earthquakes on Mauna Loa dropped to less than five per week in early 2018, but there have been up to 90 earthquakes weekly since August, with most considered mild at 2.0 or less on the Richter scale, Neal said.

Gas monitoring equipment at Mauna Loa’s summit has not detected any emerging fumes, she said.

“The most important thing is that there is no cause for alarm,” Neal said.

An eruption last year by Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano destroyed more than 700 homes from May through August. Kilauea’s current alert status is “Normal.”

The Kilauea eruption came shortly after a decrease in volcanic activity at Mauna Loa, but Neal said there is no “perfect correlation” between the volcanoes indicating one always becomes active as the other falls silent.

However, there is some geological basis to suggest a pattern, and Mauna Loa’s increased activity “would test that hypothesis,” Neal said.

New Evidence Suggests Volcanoes Caused Biggest Mass Extinction Ever

Researchers say mercury buried in ancient rock provides the strongest evidence yet that volcanoes caused the biggest mass extinction in the history of the Earth.

The extinction 252 million years ago was so dramatic and widespread that scientists call it “the Great Dying.” The catastrophe killed off more than 95 percent of life on Earth over the course of hundreds of thousands of years.

Paleontologists with the University of Cincinnati and the China University of Geosciences said they found a spike in mercury in the geologic record at nearly a dozen sites around the world, which provides persuasive evidence that volcanic eruptions were to blame for this global cataclysm.

The study was published this month in the journal Nature Communications.

The eruptions ignited vast deposits of coal, releasing mercury vapor high into the atmosphere. Eventually, it rained down into the marine sediment around the planet, creating an elemental signature of a catastrophe that would herald the age of dinosaurs.

“Volcanic activities, including emissions of volcanic gases and combustion of organic matter, released abundant mercury to the surface of the Earth,” said lead author Jun Shen, an associate professor at the China University of Geosciences.

The mass extinction occurred at what scientists call the Permian-Triassic Boundary. The mass extinction killed off much of the terrestrial and marine life before the rise of dinosaurs. Some were prehistoric monsters in their own right, such as the ferocious gorgonopsids that looked like a cross between a sabre-toothed tiger and a Komodo dragon.

The eruptions occurred in a volcanic system called the Siberian Traps in what is now central Russia. Many of the eruptions occurred not in cone-shaped volcanoes but through gaping fissures in the ground. The eruptions were frequent and long-lasting and their fury spanned a period of hundreds of thousands of years.

“Typically, when you have large, explosive volcanic eruptions, a lot of mercury is released into the atmosphere,” said Thomas Algeo, a professor of geology in UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.

“Mercury is a relatively new indicator for researchers. It has become a hot topic for investigating volcanic influences on major events in Earth’s history,” Algeo said.

Researchers use the sharp fossilized teeth of lamprey-like creatures called conodonts to date the rock in which the mercury was deposited. Like most other creatures on the planet, conodonts were decimated by the catastrophe.

The eruptions propelled as much as 3 million cubic kilometers of ash high into the air over this extended period. To put that in perspective, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington sent just 1 cubic kilometer of ash into the atmosphere, even though ash fell on car windshields as far away as Oklahoma.

In fact, Algeo said, the Siberian Traps eruptions spewed so much material in the air, particularly greenhouse gases, that it warmed the planet by an average of about 10 degrees centigrade.

The warming climate likely would have been one of the biggest culprits in the mass extinction, he said. But acid rain would have spoiled many bodies of water and raised the acidity of the global oceans. And the warmer water would have had more dead zones from a lack of dissolved oxygen.

“We’re often left scratching our heads about what exactly was most harmful. Creatures adapted to colder environments would have been out of luck,” Algeo said. “So my guess is temperature change would be the No. 1 killer. Effects would exacerbated by acidification and other toxins in the environment.”

Stretching over an extended period, eruption after eruption prevented the Earth’s food chain from recovering.

“It’s not necessarily the intensity but the duration that matters,” Algeo said. “The longer this went on, the more pressure was placed on the environment.”

Likewise, the Earth was slow to recover from the disaster because the ongoing disturbances continued to wipe out biodiversity, he said.

Earth has witnessed five known mass extinctions over its 4.5 billion years.

Scientists used another elemental signature — iridium — to pin down the likely cause of the global mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. They believe an enormous meteor struck what is now Mexico.

The resulting plume of superheated earth blown into the atmosphere rained down material containing iridium that is found in the geologic record around the world.

Shen said the mercury signature provides convincing evidence that the Siberian Traps eruptions were responsible for the catastrophe. Now researchers are trying to pin down the extent of the eruptions and which environmental effects in particular were most responsible for the mass die-off, particularly for land animals and plants.

Shen said the Permian extinction could shed light on how global warming today might lead to the next mass extinction. If global warming, indeed, was responsible for the Permian die-off, what does warming portend for humans and wildlife today?

“The release of carbon into the atmosphere by human beings is similar to the situation in the Late Permian, where abundant carbon was released by the Siberian eruptions,” Shen said.

Algeo said it is cause for concern.

“A majority of biologists believe we’re at the cusp of another mass extinction — the sixth big one. I share that view, too,” Algeo said. “What we should learn is this will be serious business that will harm human interests so we should work to minimize the damage.”

People living in marginal environments such as arid deserts will suffer first. This will lead to more climate refugees around the world.

“We’re likely to see more famine and mass migration in the hardest hit places. It’s a global issue and one we should recognize and proactively deal with. It’s much easier to address these problems before they reach a crisis.”