Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Benthic Processes

Submarine volcanism

Project Manager: Alicé Davis
Lead Scientist: David Clague
Lead Engineer: John Graybeal

Studies of explosive volcanism along mid-ocean ridges, submarine rift zones in Hawaii, and seamounts along the California margin will continue, as we explore the range of environments, compositions, and depths under which explosive basaltic eruptions can occur. This knowledge is critical to understanding the hazards of such eruptions and the inputs of magmatic volatiles, dominated by carbon dioxide, into the hydrosphere.

We will continue to examine the composition and structure of giant Hawaiian landslides offshore Oahu, Molokai, and Hawaii. Continuing analysis of nearly 500 samples from drowned coral reefs around Hawaii will advance understanding of how the reefs form and drown and the implications for island subsidence and paleoclimate. We will continue to publish results from MBARI's 2001 expedition to Hawaii, Hawaiian dives with Pisces and with JAMSTEC submersibles and ROVs, and MBARI dives on the Gorda and East Pacific Rise mid-ocean ridges and Davidson Seamount.

Studies of central California seamounts will expand southward with sampling and mapping on Rodriguez, Northeast Bank, San Juan, and San Marcos Seamounts. Similar to Davidson, Guide, Pioneer, and Gumdrop, but slightly younger in age, these volcanoes are examples of a previously unrecognized kind of oceanic volcanism (Davis et al., 2002), reflecting changes in plate boundaries as the Pacific-North American boundary shifted from a convergent to a transform margin. Since some of these seamounts emerged above sea level before final submergence, they provide the rare opportunity to study the transition from submarine to subaerial eruption.

Last updated: Feb. 05, 2009