Just off the West Coast of the United States something may be bubbling under the surface of the ocean. There is reason to believe that the Axial Seamount, an active underwater volcano 300 miles (480 kilometers) off the coast of Oregon, may be spewing forth undersea lava. However, there is still ambiguity as to whether the event can be described as an eruption, according to The Seattle Times.
The eruption was forecast by scientists during the fall of 2014. Geologists Bill Chadwick of Oregon State University and Scott Nooner of the University of North Carolina Wilmington predicted that the Axial Seamount would erupt within 15 months based on high-tech seafloor instruments providing real-time data.
“It was an astonishing experience to see the changes taking place 300 miles away with no one anywhere nearby,” said John Delaney, a University of Washington oceanography professor who led the installation of the instrument. “The data flowed back to land at the speed of light through the fiber-optic cable connected to Pacific City—and from there, to here on campus by the Internet, in milliseconds.”
Image Credit: Custom-built pressure sensor detects the movement of the seafloor / NSF-OOI/UW/CSSF
The region has been experiencing thousands of tiny earthquakes for over a week now; a sign that magma under the earth’s crust is making its way towards the surface. The seafloor dropped by 2.4 meters (8 feet), which indicates magma is being drawn from an underground reservoir.
There’s no need to pack up your surfboard just yet though: Researchers say the event is no threat to the coast or coastal residents. The earthquakes that happened before and after the eruption are small in magnitude, and the seafloor movements are gradual and cannot cause a tsunami.
Scientists will try to visit the seamount this summer to confirm whether or not it erupted. “It isn’t clear yet whether the earthquakes and deflation at Axial are related to a full-blown eruption, or if it is only a large intrusion of magma that hasn’t quite reached the surface,”said Chadwick. “There are some hints that lava did erupt, but we may not know for sure until we can get out there with a ship.”