Volcanic Eruption Observed in Real Time, Aided by Sea-floor Sensors

On April 24, scientists at the University of Washington successfully observed the eruption of Axial Volcano in real time through an installed system of high-tech seabed sensors.

On the evening of April 23, monitoring instruments around the Axial Volcano recorded a huge spike in seismic activity. William Wilcock, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, spotted the spike and alerted a group of scientists.

This event is the first major test run for the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). The US $386-million programme, funded by the US National Science Foundation, is in its final stages of putting dense network of oceanographic instruments on the sea floor.

John Delaney, a professor of oceanography who helped to install the sensors, said in a press release that it was an astonishing experience to see the changes taking place 300 miles away with no one anywhere nearby.

Richard Murray, division director for ocean sciences at the National Science Foundation, stated enthusiastically, "This exciting sequence of events documented by the OOI-Cabled Array at Axial Seamount gives us an entirely new view of how our planet works”.

The system uses fiber-optic cable network, to relay data in milliseconds. The sensor technology measures ground movement by recording the movement of tides and waves and the resultant overhead water pressure. Changes in water pressure reveal that the sea floor is experiencing vertical changes.

The Axial Volcano which last erupted in 2011, lies along the Juan de Fuca Ridge.

The deployment of these sea-bed sensors, surely uncovers a new era of Earth sciences. Aided by innovative instrumentation, this present technology has the potential to unearth novel facts about volcanism, earthquakes and various other important scientific phenomena.

Already the website of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology in Washington DC is streaming data from seven Axial seismometers to researchers, via their website.