Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists image deep magma beneath Pacific seafloor volcano

Date:
March 27, 2013
Source:
University of California - San Diego
Summary:
Since the plate tectonics revolution of the 1960s, scientists have known that new seafloor is created throughout the major ocean basins at linear chains of volcanoes known as mid-ocean ridges. But where exactly does the erupted magma come from? Researchers now have a better idea after capturing a unique image of a site deep in the earth where magma is generated.

The deep melting region where magma is generated in the mantle beneath the mid-ocean ridge volcano. Green to red colors show regions of partially molten material created by upwelling due to the divergence of the Pacific and Cocos tectonic plates. This image was made by analyzing data collected by an array of seafloor electromagnetic instruments, shown as inverted triangles. Shaded colors in the upper panel show the seafloor topography around the survey region.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - San Diego

Since the plate tectonics revolution of the 1960s, scientists have known that new seafloor is created throughout the major ocean basins at linear chains of volcanoes known as mid-ocean ridges. But where exactly does the erupted magma come from?

Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego now have a better idea after capturing a unique image of a site deep in the Earth where magma is generated.

Using electromagnetic technology developed and advanced at Scripps, the researchers mapped a large area beneath the seafloor off Central America at the northern East Pacific Rise, a seafloor volcano located on a section of the global mid-ocean ridges that together form the largest and most active chain of volcanoes in the solar system. By comparison, the researchers say the cross-section area of the melting region they mapped would rival the size of San Diego County.

Details of the image and the methods used to capture it are published in the March 28 issue of the journal Nature.

"Our data show that mantle upwelling beneath the mid-ocean ridge creates a deeper and broader melting region than previously thought," said Kerry Key, lead author of the study and an associate research geophysicist at Scripps. "This was the largest project of its kind, enabling us to image the mantle with a level of detail not possible with previous studies."

The northern East Pacific Rise is an area where two of the planet's tectonic plates are spreading apart from each another. Mantle rising between the plates melts to generate the magma that forms fresh seafloor when it erupts or freezes in the crust.

Data for the study was obtained during a 2004 field study conducted aboard the research vessel Roger Revelle, a ship operated by Scripps and owned by the U.S. Navy.

The marine electromagnetic technology behind the study was originally developed in the 1960s by Charles "Chip" Cox, an emeritus professor of oceanography at Scripps, and his student Jean Filloux. In recent years the technology was further advanced by Steven Constable and Key. Since 1995 Scripps researchers have been working with the energy industry to apply this technology to map offshore geology as an aid to exploring for oil and gas reservoirs.

"We have been working on developing our instruments and interpretation software for decades, and it is really exciting to see it all come together to provide insights into the fundamental processes of plate tectonics," said Constable, a coauthor of the paper and a professor in the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps. "It was really a surprise to discover that melting started so deep in the mantle -- much deeper than was expected."

Key believes the insights that electromagnetics provides will continue to grow as the technology matures and data analysis techniques improve (last week Key and his colleagues announced the use of electromagnetics in discovering a magma lubricant for the planet's tectonic plates).

"Electromagnetics is really coming of age as a tool for imaging the earth," said Key. "Much of what we know about the crust and mantle is a result of using seismic techniques. Now electromagnetic technology is offering promise for further discoveries."

Key also has future plans to apply electromagnetic technology to map subglacial lakes and groundwater in the polar regions.

In addition to Key and Constable, coauthors of the paper include Lijun Liu of the University of Illinois and Anne Pommier of Arizona State University.

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Seafloor Electromagnetic Methods Consortium at Scripps.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - San Diego. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kerry Key, Steven Constable, Lijun Liu, Anne Pommier. Electrical image of passive mantle upwelling beneath the northern East Pacific Rise. Nature, 2013; 495 (7442): 499 DOI: 10.1038/nature11932

Cite This Page:

University of California - San Diego. "Scientists image deep magma beneath Pacific seafloor volcano." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327144127.htm>.
University of California - San Diego. (2013, March 27). Scientists image deep magma beneath Pacific seafloor volcano. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327144127.htm
University of California - San Diego. "Scientists image deep magma beneath Pacific seafloor volcano." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327144127.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins