Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 23 Issue 01

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Volume 23, No. 1
Pages 38 - 39


SPOTLIGHT • Axial Seamount

By William W. Chadwick , David A. Butterfield , Robert W. Embley, Verena Tunnicliffe, Julie A. Huber , Scott L. Nooner, and David A. Clague 
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Axial Seamount is a hotspot volcano superimposed on the Juan de Fuca Ridge (JdFR) in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Due to its robust magma supply, it rises ~ 800 m above the rest of JdFR and has a large elongate summit caldera with two rift zones that parallel and overlap with adjacent segments of the spreading center (Figure 1). Submersible dives at Axial in 1983–1984 discovered the first active black smoker vents in the Northeast Pacific (Chase et al., 1985). The New Millennium Observatory (NeMO; http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/vents/nemo) was established at Axial in 1996 to study volcanic events and the perturbations they cause to hydrothermal and biological systems. As if on cue, Axial erupted in January 1998 and was the first seafloor eruption detected remotely and monitored by in situ instruments (Embley et al., 1999). In fact, one instrument caught in a 1998 lava flow was later recovered with data intact, providing new insight into the emplacement of submarine lavas (Chadwick, 2003). Initially, research focused on mapping, sampling, and documenting the impact of the eruption on the hydrothermal vents and biological communities (Figure 2). The emphasis has gradually shifted to long-term geophysical, geochemical, and biological monitoring of the volcano in anticipation of its next eruption.


Chadwick, W.W., D.A. Butterfield, R.W. Embley, V. Tunnicliffe, J.A. Huber, S.L. Nooner, and D.A. Clague. 2010. Spotlight 1: Axial Seamount. Oceanography 23(1):38–39, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2010.73.


Baker, E.T., C.G. Fox, and J.P. Cowen. 1999. In situ observations of the onset of hydrothermal discharge during the 1998 submarine eruption of Axial Volcano, Juan de Fuca Ridge. Geophysical Research Letters 26(23):3,445–3,448.

Butterfield, D.A., K.K. Roe, M.D. Lilley, J. Huber, J.A. Baross, R.W. Embley, and G.J. Massoth. 2004. Mixing, reaction and microbial activity in the sub-seafloor revealed by temporal and spatial variation in diffuse flow vents at Axial Volcano. Pp. 269–289 in The Subseafloor Biosphere at Mid-Ocean Ridges. Geophysical Monograph Series, Vol. 144, W.S.D. Wilcock, D. Kelley, E.F. DeLong, and S.C. Cary, eds, American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC.

Chase, R.L., J.R. Delaney, J.L. Karsten, H.P. Johnson, S.K. Juniper, J.E. Lupton, S.D. Scott, V. Tunnicliffe, S.R. Hammond, and R.E. McDuff. 1985. Hydrothermal vents on Axial Seamount on the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Nature 313:212–214.

Chadwick, W.W. Jr. 2003. Quantitative constraints on the growth of submarine lava pillars from a monitoring instrument that was caught in a lava flow. Journal of Geophysical Research 108(B11), 2534, https://doi.org/2510.1029/2003JB002422.

Dziak, R.P., and C.G. Fox. 1999. The January 1998 earthquake swarm at Axial Volcano, Juan de Fuca Ridge: Hydroacoustic evidence of seafloor volcanic activity. Geophysical Research Letters 26(23):3,429–3,432.

Embley, R.W., W.W. Chadwick Jr., D. Clague, and D. Stakes. 1999. The 1998 eruption of Axial Volcano: Multibeam anomalies and seafloor observations. Geophysical Research Letters 26(23):3,425–3,428.

Fox, C.G. 1999. In situ ground deformation measurements from the summit of Axial Volcano during the 1998 volcanic episode. Geophysical Research Letters 26(23):3,437–3,440.

Huber, J.A., D.B.M. Welch, H.G. Morrison, S.M. Huse, P.R. Neal, D.A. Butterfield, and M.L. Sogin. 2007. Microbial population structures in the deep marine biosphere. Science 318:97–100.

Marcus, J., V. Tunnicliffe, and D.A. Butterfield. 2009. Post-eruption succession of macrofaunal communities at diffuse flow hydrothermal vents on Axial Volcano, Juan de Fuca Ridge, Northeast Pacific. Deep Sea Research Part II, http://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr1012.2009.1005.1004.

Nooner, S.L., and W.W. Chadwick Jr. 2009. Volcanic inflation measured in the caldera of Axial Seamount: Implications for magma supply and future eruptions. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 10, Q02002, https://doi.org/02010.01029/02008GC002315.

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