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

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Volume 23, No. 1
Pages 20 - 21

BOX • Defining the Word "Seamount"

Hubert Staudigel Anthony A.P. Koppers J. William Lavelle Tony J. PitcherTimothy M. Shank
First Paragraph

Reading through this issue of Oceanography, it will become apparent that researchers in different disciplines see their seamounts in quite different ways. The term seamount has been defined many times (e.g., Menard, 1964; Wessel, 2001; Schmidt and Schmincke, 2000; Pitcher et al., 2007; International Hydrographic Organization, 2008; Wessel et al., 2010) but there is no “generally accepted” definition. Instead, most definitions serve the particular needs of a discipline or a specific paper. Inconsistencies are common among different publications and, most notably, differ from the recommendations of the International Hydrographic Organization and International Oceanographic Commission (International Hydrographic Organization, 2008). It is not the goal of this note to arbitrate or remedy these inconsistencies. However, as seamount researchers begins to coalesce into one broad, multidisciplinary research community, it is important to: (1) have a simple definition that explains which features are included under the umbrella of seamount research and which are not, providing an essential condition for defining the seamount research community, and (2) respect and be aware of differences among disciplinary definitions, as they may stand in the way of consistently applying one disciplinary data set to another.


Staudigel, H., A.A.P. Koppers, J.W. Lavelle, T.J. Pitcher, and T.M. Shank. 2010. Box 1: Defining the word “seamount”. Oceanography 23(1):20–21, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2010.85.


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.

Harris, P.T. 2007. Applications of geophysical information to the design of a representative system of marine protected areas in southeastern Australia. Pp. 449–468 in Mapping the Seafloor for Habitat Characterisation. B.J. Todd and G. Greene, eds, Geological Association of Canada Special Paper 47, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada.

International Hydrographic Organization. 2008. Standardization of undersea feature names: Guidelines proposal form terminology, 4th edition. International Hydrographic Organization and International Oceanographic Commission, International Hydrographic Bureau, Monaco, 32 pp. Available online at: http://www.iho-ohi.net/iho_pubs/IHO_Download.htm (accessed February 6, 2010).

Menard, H.W. 1964. Marine Geology of the Pacific. McGraw-Hill, New York, 271 pp.

Pitcher, T.J., T. Morato, P.J.B. Hart, M. Clark, N. Haggan, and R.C. Santos, eds. 2007. Seamounts: Ecology, Fisheries and Conservation. Fish and Aquatic Resources Series 12. Blackwell, Oxford, UK, 527 pp.

Smith, D.K., and J.R. Cann. 1992. The role of seamount volcanism in crustal construction at the mid-Atlantic ridge. Journal of Geophysical Research 97(B2):1,645–1,658.

Schmidt, R., and H.U. Schmincke. 2000. Seamounts and island building. Pp. 383–402 in Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. H. Sigurdsson, ed., Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

Staudigel, H., and D.A. Clague. 2010. The geological history of deep-sea volcanoes: Biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere interactions. Oceanography 23(1):58–71.

Staudigel, H., C.L. Moyer, M.O. Garcia, A. Malahoff, D.A. Clague, and A.A.P. Koppers. 2010. Spotlight 3: Lō`ihi Seamount. Oceanography 23(1):72–73.

Wessel, P. 2001. Global distribution of seamounts inferred from gridded Geosat/ERS-1 altimetry. Journal of Geophysical Research 106(B9):19,431–19,441.

Wessel, P., D.T. Sandwell, and S.-S. Kim. 2010. The global seamount census. Oceanography 23(1):24–33.