In DepthVOLCANOLOGY

Ship spies newborn underwater volcano

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Science  24 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6442, pp. 720
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6442.720

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Summary

French scientists have witnessed the birth of a newborn underwater volcano. Rising from the Indian Ocean floor between Africa and Madagascar is a giant edifice 800 meters high and 5 kilometers across, according to initial results obtained by the research vessel Marion Dufresne and released last week. In previous maps there had been nothing. The quarter-million people living on the French island of Mayotte in the Comoros archipelago knew for months that something was happening. From the middle of last year they felt small earthquakes almost daily. Now, data retrieved from ocean-bottom seismometers reveal why. They show, east of the island, a tightly clustered region of earthquake activity, ranging from 20 to 50 kilometers deep in Earth's crust. The research team suspects a deep magma chamber fed molten rock to the surface and then contracted. The size of the volcano indicates that as much as 5 cubic kilometers of magma erupted onto the sea floor—the largest such event ever witnessed.