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Infrasound from giant bubbles during explosive submarine eruptions

October 14, 2019

Shallow submarine volcanoes pose unique scientific and monitoring challenges. The interaction between water and magma can create violent explosions just below the surface, but the inaccessibility of submerged volcanoes means they are typically not instrumented. This both increases the risk to marine and aviation traffic and leaves the underlying eruption physics poorly understood. Here we use low-frequency sound in the atmosphere (infrasound) to examine the source mechanics of shallow submarine explosions from Bogoslof volcano, Alaska. We show that the infrasound originates from the oscillation and rupture of magmatic gas bubbles that initially formed from submerged vents, but that grew and burst above sea level. We model the low-frequency signals as overpressurized gas bubbles that grow near the water–air interface, which require bubble radii of 50–220 m. Bubbles of this size and larger have been described in explosive subaqueous eruptions for more than a century, but we present a unique geophysical record of this phenomenon. We propose that the dominant role of seawater during the effusion of gas-rich magma into shallow water is to repeatedly produce a gas-tight seal near the vent. This resealing mechanism leads to sequences of violent explosions and the release of large, bubble-forming volumes of gas—activity we describe as hydrovulcanian.

Publication Year 2019
Title Infrasound from giant bubbles during explosive submarine eruptions
DOI 10.1038/s41561-019-0461-0
Authors John J. Lyons, Matthew M. Haney, David Fee, Aaron Wech, Christopher F. Waythomas
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Geoscience
Index ID 70218246
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Hazards Program; Volcano Science Center