Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Submarine Volcanism
Submarine Volcanism Project

Collapsed lava pillow at 2107m depth on Puna Ridge, the submarine extension of Kilauea's East Rift Zone, April 2001
Photo © 2001 MBARI

Equivalent lava flow on land, on Kilauea's East Rift Zone, April 2001
Photo © 2001 J. B. Paduan

We study processes that form and modify volcanoes in the sea

Volcanic eruptions and flank collapses are significant geologic hazards. While volcanic events and deposits in the ocean are largely concealed from view and more difficult to sample than volcanoes on land, submarine volcanoes are an integral part of the way the Earth works and may cause destructive tsunami. The roles of mid-ocean ridges in plate tectonics and hydrothermal circulation are concepts that were only discovered in the last half century. We are now learning often the ridges erupt, how big those eruptions are or how explosive they might be, and how much they contribute to global gas and mineral cycles. Near-ridge seamounts are a special case only recently recognized: they are influenced by ridge processes but have large calderas so might be capable of especially violent behavior. Hot spot mantle plumes have built many of the thousands of seamounts and islands in the ocean, which are important for species biodiversity, fisheries and other human uses, but which can produce destructive eruptions and landslides.

Our goal is to better understand these and other volcanic processes in the deep sea environment. Through this research we hope to gain insight into potentially destructive eruptions on land or in shallow water. We are studying:

  • Styles of volcanic eruptions at varying depths and lava compositions
  • Frequency and volume of mid-ocean ridge eruptions
  • Explosive volcanism in the deep sea
  • Submarine landslides and the structure of the flanks of volcanoes
  • Evolution of hydrothermal systems
  • Plio-Pleistocene paleoclimatic history recorded in drowned coral reefs
  • Origin and evolution of oceanic volcanoes
  • Biogeography of ocean islands and submarine volcanoes

Image © MBARI
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The latest

cruise blog

Axial 2015 cruise blog

April 2015 eruption rapid response, and long-term monitoring of the volcano with ROV Jason and AUV Sentry

cruise log

MBARI Gulf of California 2015 cruise logs

Pescadero Basin news release and YouTube video

YouTube video Four new species of carniverous sponges

See also our most recent publications
and news and videos

Our research is highlighted in these web pages, presented through abstracts of our publications

Hot spots: Hawaiian Islands and Loihi Seamount
Mid-ocean ridges: Gorda and Juan de Fuca Ridges, Axial Volcano, East Pacific Rise, Lau Basin
Seamounts: Intraplate seamounts off California and in the central Pacific
Margins: Continental margin off Oregon and California

To study these processes, our research takes us to places such as Hawaii, the Gorda Ridge, and the seamounts off California. These places are characterized by different types of volcanism: hot spots, mid-ocean ridges, and intraplate seamounts. We also work off the West Coast studying geologic processes unrelated to volcanoes.

Our most recent papers are listed at the top of the Publication List page.
Where possible, links are given to the complete papers on-line, but users will need to be subscribed to on-line library services to view them.

Our publications | Collaborators' pubs | News and videos

Special volumes:
Ridge2000 Mountains in the Sea Encyclopedia of Islands
Special issue of Oceanography on Spreading Centers Special issue of Oceanography on Mountains in the Sea Encyclopedia of Islands from UC Press.

Related MBARI YouTube videos:

YouTube video YouTube video YouTube video MBARI YouTube video
High-tech robots reveal details of the deep "Snow-blower" hydrothermal vents Davidson Seamount Hawaii highlights

Submarine Volcanism project team

Dave Jenny Brian

Current projects

Why is this research important?

Submarine volcanoes may impact us, even though they are underwater. How?
Submarine eruptions are poorly understood. Why?
There are many advantages to studying samples erupted under water. What are they?

Dive into your imagination Here is an interview with Dr. Clague

What is it like to explore the deep sea?

western flyer

Latest cruise logs: Ridges 2013 primarily to Axial Seamount
We send back daily cruise logs from our expeditions. These logs contain dive reports written by the scientists, images, maps, and updates from the others in the crew.

How do we explore the deep sea? Here is information about the equipment we use.

How do we map the seafloor?
MBA mission Mapping undersea mountains,
Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Mission to the Deep"

| Hot spots | Mid-ocean ridges | Seamounts | Margin |

| Publication list | Cruise logs | FAQ, resources | Site map |

Questions? Comments? Please contact Jenny Paduan
Last updated: Sep. 01, 2015