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

View Issue TOC
Volume 31, No. 1
Pages 114 - 123


The Recent Volcanic History of Axial Seamount: Geophysical Insights into Past Eruption Dynamics with an Eye Toward Enhanced Observations of Future Eruptions

By William S.D. Wilcock , Robert P. Dziak, Maya Tolstoy, William W. Chadwick Jr., Scott L. Nooner, DelWayne R. Bohnenstiehl, Jacqueline Caplan-Auerbach, Felix Waldhauser, Adrien F. Arnulf, Christian Baillard, Tai-Kwan Lau, Joseph H. Haxel, Yen Joe Tan, Charles Garcia, Samuel Levy, and M. Everett Mann 
Jump to
Article Abstract Citation Supplementary Materials References Copyright & Usage
Article Abstract

To understand the processes that form oceanic crust as well as the role of submarine volcanoes in exchanging heat and chemicals with the ocean and in supporting chemosynthetic biological communities, it is essential to study underwater eruptions. The world’s most advanced underwater volcano observatory—the Ocean Observatories Initiative Cabled Array at Axial Seamount—builds upon ~30 years of sustained geophysical monitoring at this site with autonomous and remote systems. In April 2015, only months after the Cabled Array’s installation, it recorded an eruption at Axial Seamount, adding to the records of two prior eruptions in 1998 and 2011. Between eruptions, magma recharge is focused beneath the southeast part of the summit caldera, leading to steady inflation and increasing rates of seismicity. During each eruption, the volcano deflates over days to weeks, coincident with high levels of seismicity as a dike is emplaced along one of the volcano’s rifts and lava erupts on the seafloor. Cabled Array seismic data show that motions on an outward-dipping ring fault beneath the caldera accommodate the inflation and deflation. Eruptions appear to occur at a predictable level of inflation; hence, it should be possible to time deployments of additional cabled and autonomous instrumentation to further enhance observations of the next eruption.


Wilcock, W.S.D., R.P. Dziak, M. Tolstoy, W.W. Chadwick Jr., S.L. Nooner, D.R. Bohnenstiehl, J. Caplan-Auerbach, F. Waldhauser, A.F. Arnulf, C. Baillard, T.-K. Lau, J.H. Haxel, Y.J. Tan, C. Garcia, S. Levy, and M.E. Mann. 2018. The recent volcanic history of Axial Seamount: Geophysical insights into past eruption dynamics with an eye toward enhanced observations of future eruptions. Oceanography 31(1):114–123, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2018.117.

Supplementary Materials

Arnulf, A.F., A.J. Harding, G.M. Kent, S.M. Carbotte, J.P. Canales, and M. Nedimovic. 2014. Anatomy of an active submarine volcano. Geology 42(8):655–658, https://doi.org/10.1130/G35629.1.

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, https://doi.org/​10.1029/1999GL002331.

Butterfield, D.A., G.J. Massoth, R.E. McDuff, J.E. Lupton, and M.D. Lilley. 1990. Geochemistry of hydrothermal fluids from Axial Seamount hydrothermal emissions study vent field, Juan de Fuca Ridge: Subseafloor boiling and subsequent fluid-rock interaction. Journal of Geophysical Research 95(B8):12,895–12,921, https://doi.org/​10.1029/JB095iB08p12895.

Cann, J.R., and M.R. Strens. 1989. Modeling periodic megaplume emission by black smoker systems. Journal of Geophysical Research 94(B9):12,227–12,237, https://doi.org/​10.1029/JB094iB09p12227.

Caplan-Auerbach, J., R.P. Dziak, J. Haxel, D.R. Bohnenstiehl, and C. Garcia. 2017. Explosive processes during the 2015 eruption of Axial Seamount, as recorded by seafloor hydrophones. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 18(4):1,761–1,774, https://doi.org/​10.1002/2016GC006734.

Caress, D.W., D.A. Clague, J.B. Paduan, J.F. Martin, B.M. Dreyer, W.W. Chadwick Jr., A. Denny, and D.S. Kelley. 2012. Repeat bathymetric surveys at 1-metre resolution of lava flows erupted at Axial Seamount in April 2011. Nature Geoscience 5(7):483–488, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1496.

Chadwick, W.W., Jr., D.A. Clague, R.W. Embley, M.R. Perfit, D.A. Butterfield, D.W. Caress, J.B. Paduan, J.F. Martin, P. Sasnett, S.G. Merle, and A.M. Bobbitt. 2013. The 1998 eruption of Axial Seamount: New insights on submarine lava flow emplacement from high-​resolution mapping. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 14(10):3,939–3,968, https://doi.org/​10.1002/ggge.20202.

Chadwick, W.W., Jr., R.W. Embley, H.B. Milburn, C. Meinig, and M. Stapp. 1999. Evidence for deformation associated with the 1998 eruption of Axial Volcano, Juan de Fuca Ridge, from acoustic extensometer measurements. Geophysical Research Letters 26(23):3,441–3,444, https://doi.org/​10.1029/1999GL900498.

Chadwick, W.W., Jr., and S.L. Nooner. 2014. Slide from a talk at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). Blog to Chronicle Eruption Forecasts at Axial Seamount, https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/eoi/axial_blog.html.

Chadwick, W.W. Jr., S.L. Nooner, D.A. Butterfield, and M.D. Lilley. 2012. Seafloor deformation and forecasts of the April 2011 eruption at Axial Seamount. Nature Geoscience 5(7):474–477, https://doi.org/​10.1038/ngeo1464.

Chadwick, W.W., Jr., S.L. Nooner, M.A. Zumberge, R.W. Embley, and C.G. Fox. 2006. Vertical deformation monitoring at Axial Seamount since its 1998 eruption using deep-sea pressure sensors. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 150(1):313–327, https://doi.org/10.1016/​j.jvolgeores.2005.07.006.

Chadwick, W.W., Jr., J.B. Paduan, D.A. Clague, B.M. Dreyer, S.G. Merle, A.M. Bobbitt, D.W. Caress, B.T. Philip, D.S. Kelley, and S.L. Nooner. 2016. Voluminous eruption from a zoned magma body after an increase in supply rate at Axial Seamount. Geophysical Research Letters 43(23):12,063–12,070, https://doi.org/​10.1002/2016GL071327.

Chase, R., J. Delaney, J. Karsten, H. Johnson, S. Juniper, J. Lupton, S. Scott, V. Tunnacliffe, R. Hammond, and R. McDuff. 1985. Hydrothermal vents on an axis seamount of the Juan de Fuca ridge. Nature 317(5999):212–214, https://doi.org/​10.1038/313212a0.

Clague, D.A., J.B. Paduan, D.W. Caress, W.W. Chadwick Jr., M. Le Saout, B.M. Dreyer, and R.A. Portner. 2017. High-resolution AUV mapping and targeted ROV observations of three historical lava flows at Axial Seamount. Oceanography 30(4), https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2017.426.

Cowen, J.P., E.T. Baker, and R.W. Embley. 2004. Detection of and response to mid-ocean ridge magmatic events: Implications for the subsurface biosphere. Pp. 227–243 in The Subseafloor Biosphere at Mid-Ocean Ridges. W.S.D. Wilcock, E.F. DeLong, D.S. Kelley, J.A. Baross, and S.C. Cary, eds, Geophysical Monograph Series, vol. 144, American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC.

Delaney, J.R., D.S. Kelley, M.D. Lilley, D.A. Butterfield, J.A. Baross, W.S.D. Wilcock, R.W. Embley, and M. Summit. 1998. The quantum event of oceanic crustal accretion: Impacts of diking at mid-ocean ridges. Science 281(5374):222–230, https://doi.org/​10.1126/science.281.5374.222.

Duennebier, F.K., N.C. Becker, J. Caplan-Auerbach, D.A. Clague, J. Cowen, M. Cremer, M. Garcia, F. Goff, A. Malahoff, G.M. McMurtry, and others. 1997. Researchers rapidly respond to submarine activity at Loihi Volcano, Hawaii. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union 78(22):229, https://doi.org/10.1029/97EO00150.

Dziak, R.P., and C.G. Fox. 1999a. Long-term seismicity and ground deformation at Axial Volcano, Juan de Fuca Ridge. Geophysical Research Letters 26(24):3,641–3,644, https://doi.org/​10.1029/1999GL002326.

Dziak, R.P., and C.G. Fox. 1999b. 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, https://doi.org/​10.1029/​1999GL002332.

Dziak, R.P., S.R. Hammond, and C.G. Fox. 2011. A 20-year hydroacoustic time series of seismic and volcanic events in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Oceanography 24(3):280–293, https://doi.org/​10.5670/oceanog.2011.79.

Dziak, R.P., J.H. Haxel, D.R. Bohnenstiehl, W.W. Chadwick Jr., S.L. Nooner, M.J. Fowler, H. Matsumoto, and D.A. Butterfield. 2012. Seismic precursors and magma ascent before the April 2011 eruption at Axial Seamount. Nature Geoscience 5(7):478–482, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1490.

Embley, R.W., K.M. Murphy, and C.G. Fox. 1990. High-resolution studies of the summit of Axial Volcano. Journal of Geophysical Research 95(8):12,785–12,812, https://doi.org/​10.1029/JB095iB08p12785.

Embley, R.W., W.W. Chadwick Jr., D. Clague, and D. Stakes. 1999. 1998 eruption of Axial Volcano: Multibeam anomalies and sea-floor observations. Geophysical Research Letters 26(23):3,425–3,428, https://doi.org/10.1029/1999GL002328.

Fox, C.G. 1990. Evidence of active ground deformation on the mid-ocean ridge: Axial Seamount, Juan de Fuca Ridge, April–June 1988. Journal of Geophysical Research 95(B8):12,813–12,822, https://doi.org/10.1029/JB095iB08p12813.

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.

Fox, C.G., W.W. Chadwick Jr., and R.W. Embley. 2001. Direct observation of a submarine volcanic eruption from a sea-floor instrument caught in a lava flow. Nature 412(6848):727–729, https://doi.org/​10.1038/35089066.

Fox, C.G., R.P. Dziak, H. Matsumoto, and A.E. Schreiner. 1994. Potential for monitoring low-level seismicity on the Juan de Fuca Ridge using military hydrophone arrays. Marine Technology Society Journal 27(4):22–30.

Hammond, S.R., R.W. Embley, and E.T. Baker. 2015. The NOAA vents program 1983 to 2013: Thirty years of ocean exploration and research. Oceanography 28(1):160–173, https://doi.org/​10.5670/oceanog.2015.17.

Jacobson, R.S., L.D. Bibee, R.W. Embley, and S.R. Hammond. 1987. A microseismicity survey of Axial Seamount, Juan de Fuca Ridge. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 77(1):160–172.

Kelley, D.S., J.R. Delaney, and S.K. Juniper. 2014. Establishing a new era of submarine volcanic observatories: Cabling Axial Seamount and the Endeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Marine Geology 352:426–450, https://doi.org/​10.1016/j.margeo.2014.03.010.

Lowell, R., and L. Germanovich. 1995. Dike injection and the formation of megaplumes at ocean ridges. Science 267(5205):1804, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.267.5205.1804.

Lupton, J., E. Baker, R. Embley, R. Greene, and L. Evans. 1999. Anomalous helium and heat signatures associated with the 1998 Axial Volcano Event, Juan de Fuca Ridge. Geophysical Research Letters 26(23):3,449–3,452, https://doi.org/​10.1029/​1999GL002330.

Manalang, D., and J.R. Delaney. 2016. Axial seamount—restless, wired and occupied: A conceptual overview of resident AUV operations and technologies. Paper presented at OCEANS 2016 MTS/IEEE, September 19–23, 2016, Monterey, CA, https://doi.org/10.1109/OCEANS.2016.7761305.

Martin, W., J. Baross, D. Kelley, and M.J. Russell. 2008. Hydrothermal vents and the origin of life. Nature Reviews Microbiology 6:805–814, https://doi.org/​10.1038/nrmicro1991.

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(2), Q02002, https://doi.org/​10.1029/2008GC002315.

Nooner, S.L., and W.W. Chadwick Jr. 2016. Inflation-predictable behavior and co-eruption deformation at Axial Seamount. Science 354(6318):1,399–1,403, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aah4666.

Palmer, M.R., and G.G.J. Ernst. 1998. Generation of hydrothermal megaplumes by cooling of pillow basalts at mid-ocean ridges. Nature 393(6686):643–647, https://doi.org/​10.1038/31397.

Sohn, R.A., A.H. Barclay, and S.C. Webb. 2004. Microearthquake patterns following the 1998 eruption of Axial Volcano, Juan de Fuca Ridge: Mechanical relaxation and thermal strain. Journal of Geophysical Research 109, B01101, https://doi.org/​10.1029/​2003JB002499.

Summit, M., and J.A. Baross. 1998. Thermophilic subseafloor microorganisms from the 1996 North Gorda Ridge eruption. Deep Sea Research Part II 45(12):2,751–2,766, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0967-0645(98)00092-7.

Tolstoy, M., F.L. Vernon, J.A. Orcutt, and F.K. Wyatt. 2002. Breathing of the seafloor: Tidal correlations of seismicity at Axial Volcano. Geology 30(6):503–506, https://doi.org/​10.1130/​0091-7613(2002)030​<0503:BOTSTC>2.0.CO;2.

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.

Tolstoy, T., J.P. Cowen, E.T. Baker, D.J. Fornari, K.H. Rubin, T.M. Shank, F. Waldhauser, D.R. Bohnenstiehl, D.W. Forsyth, R.C. Holmes, and others. 2006. A sea-floor spreading event captured by seismometers. Science 314(5807):1,920–1,922, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1133950.

Tréhu, A.M., W.S.D. Wilcock, R. Hilmo, P. Bodin, J. Connolly, E.C. Roland, and J. Braunmiller. 2018. The role of the Ocean Observatories Initiative in monitoring the offshore earthquake activity of the Cascadia subduction zone. Oceanography 31(1):104–113, https://doi.org/​10.5670/oceanog.2018.116.

West, M., W. Menke, M. Tolstoy, S. Webb, and R. Sohn. 2001. Magma storage beneath Axial Volcano on the Juan de Fuca mid-ocean ridge. Nature 413(6858):833–836, https://doi.org/​10.1038/35101581.

Wilcock, W.S.D., M. Tolstoy, F. Waldhauser, C. Garcia, Y.J. Tan, D.R. Bohnenstiehl, J. Caplan-Auerbach, R.P. Dziak, A.F. Arnulf, and M.E. Mann. 2016. Seismic constraints on caldera dynamics from the 2015 Axial Seamount eruption. Science 354(6318):1,395–1,399, https://doi.org/​10.1126/​science.aah5563.

Copyright & Usage

This is an open access article made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format as long as users cite the materials appropriately, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate the changes that were made to the original content. Images, animations, videos, or other third-party material used in articles are included in the Creative Commons license unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If the material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission directly from the license holder to reproduce the material.