Underwater volcanoes are one of the many natural phenomenons of the world. But what exactly is an underwater volcano? Much like volcanoes on dry land, an underwater volcano is a fissure on the earth’s surface where lava is produced and can erupt. Research shows that most of the underwater volcanoes are positioned near tectonic plate movement.
A misperception of the underwater volcano is that they are only located in deep ocean water. The fact is that they are also able to form within shallow water as well. When an underwater volcano erupts in shallow water its magma typically will also reach the surrounding land.
The formation of an underwater volcano occurs when the earth’s surface “cracks”. This can often be caused by the heat of magma which melts its way through the earth’s surface, resulting in an explosion. At this point the magma, which has been present beneath the surface (within what is known as the mantle – the area between the melted core and the thin layer of crust on the surface), is relieved of pressure and rises upward. This creates the hill-like appearance you may be familiar with from photos. When the magma, also known as liquid or molten rock, and gasses finally bursts or rises out of the volcano it is called an eruption.
The magma then becomes known as lava upon reaching the earth’s surface. It is not an uncommon occurrence for the lava to cool in a pile-like or tall structure to create underwater ridges and formations.
Research shows that there may be over 10,000 underwater volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean alone. It is common to find underwater volcanoes close to one another in the form of a chain or circle – also known as the ring of fire.
But what are the other differences between an underwater and surface volcano you ask? The first major difference is that water pressure is much greater than air pressure (approximately two-hundred-and-fifty times more pressure!). This results in very large eruptions in comparison to one on land. To give a general idea of just how dramatic an underwater volcanoes eruption can be – take a look at the Hawaiian Islands! That’s right; they are the result of an underwater volcano! Did you know that if you were to measure Hawaii from its base to the tip, it would be larger than Mount Everest? Wow!
Some say that underwater volcanoes have a great affect on the warming of oceanic waters and play a role in global warming. The truth behind it is that scientists are still thriving to research underwater volcanoes through means of vessels and data. Facts show that underwater volcanoes do result in warmer water and higher CO2 levels – you be the judge!