Seamounts Discovery Could End Volcano Debate

The ocean has revealed it treasures in a new map that has caused scientist to update the count of seamounts that they have on the record.

According to The Guardian, the map was devised using gravity measurements from radar equipment aboard two separate space crafts, namely the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite and NASA’s Jason-1 satellite.

The new map provides details on thousands of undersea mountains, or seamounts, rising 1.6 km or more from the seafloor

A seamount is a mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach to the water’s surface, and thus is not an island. These are typically formed from extinct volcanoes. Seamounts are one of the most common ecosystems found in the ocean.

The last estimate of seamounts stood at 100,000, but reports from Nature indicate that data from the map will increase that number of seamounts by upwards of 20,000.

The map, which was published in the October 3 issue of Science, was charted by an international team of researchers led by oceanographer David Sandwell.

The fact that so many seamounts and other oceanic marvels have gone undiscovered is due to the revelation that previous data collection methods, which relied on ships for mapping the ocean floor, does not provide detailed information and takes a very long time to be collected and complied.

University of Sydney geophysicist Dietmar Muller, one of the researchers who worked with Sandwell, said about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and roughly 90 percent of the seafloor is uncharted by survey ships that employ acoustic beams to map the depths.

Muller, in his interview with The Guardian, lamented the lack of knowledge about the ocean seafloor and seamounts.

“We know much more about the topography of Mars than we know about Earth’s seafloor. The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 earlier this year has heightened global awareness of the poor knowledge of our ocean depths.”

The Inquisitr had reported that the search for flight MH370 revealed that there are many undiscovered areas of the world’s oceans.

National Geographic has said the newly discovered seamounts could help scientist answer an important question about how volcanoes are formed. Scientists have long argued about the role that mantle plume plays in the formation of linear volcano chains. Some scientists think mantle plumes don’t exist. However, as with climate change, the majority of researchers agree on the concept but argue about the details.

Sandwell believes that mapping out the entire distribution of the newly discovered seamounts could help resolve the debate.

[Image via National Geographic]