Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 31 Issue 01

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Volume 31, No. 1
Pages 124 - 125


A Tale of Two Eruptions: How Data from Axial Seamount Led to a Discovery on the East Pacific Rise

Maya Tolstoy William S.D. WilcockYen Joe TanFelix Waldhauser
Article Abstract

Mid-ocean ridge volcanism generates two-thirds of the surface of our planet and plays an important role in chemical exchange with the overlying ocean, yet little is known about the dynamic processes involved in mid-ocean ridge eruptions. This is largely due to the costs and challenges of deploying long-term instrumentation on the seafloor, particularly those that transmit data to shore in real time and would allow the scientific community to respond to and coalesce around a particular event. The 2015 eruption at Axial Seamount, which lies along the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the Northeast Pacific Ocean, resulted in the first in situ, real-time geophysical data collected during a mid-ocean ridge eruption. The results provided insights into the caldera fault structure and response to a seafloor-spreading episode, and also confirmed the origin of seismically recorded impulsive signals that are associated with fresh lava erupting onto the seafloor. This confirmation of a seismic signal associated with erupting lava led to revisiting data from an eruption almost a decade earlier and a fundamental new view of seafloor spreading at fast-spreading ridges thousands of kilometers from Axial Seamount. This example illustrates the point that even though cabled observatories are necessarily bound to a specific location, their results can have significant implications for understanding systems that are quite different, in far reaches of the globe.


Tolstoy, M., W.S.D. Wilcock, Y.J. Tan, and F. Waldhauser. 2018. A tale of two eruptions: How data from Axial Seamount led to a discovery on the East Pacific Rise. Oceanography 31(1):124–125, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2018.118.


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