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Underwater Volcanoes Unleash Powerful Energy High Enough To Power An Entire Continent

Underwater volcanoes produce so much energy they would be able to power an entire continent, a study has found.

Submarine volcanoes litter the world’s seabeds, but the eruptions were thought to be less exciting than the terrestrial explosions with slow-moving lava and no ash clouds.

However, new research found underwater eruptions do produce ash clouds which in turn drives megaplumes of hot water that spread upwards and then outwards.

Pictured, the underwater West Mato Volcano erupting in 2009. Researchers found they can release equivalent energy to that of the US's energy usePictured, the underwater West Mato Volcano erupting in 2009. Researchers found they can release equivalent energy to that of the US’s energy use

These megaplumes have been detected previously with researchers identifying how far and fast they moved, propelling around forty million Olympic-sized swimming pools of water.

However, their source and the mechanism creating them has remained a mystery.

Researchers from the University of Leeds made a mathematical model to unpick their origins and found they form rapidly during the eruption of lava.

Data on the size and location of ash deposits was inputted into the model and a computer recreated the dynamics that would lead to its formation.

This revealed that to create these underwater ash deposits and to power the megaplumes, the volcanic eruptions must release enormous energy equivalent to the power use of the entire US, the researchers say.

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‘Our work provides evidence that megaplumes are directly linked to the eruption of lava and are responsible for transporting volcanic ash in the deep ocean,’ Dr Sam Pegler, a mathematician at the University of Leeds, said.

‘It also shows that plumes must have formed in a matter of hours, creating an immense rate of energy release.’

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Dr David Ferguson, from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, said: ‘The majority of Earth’s volcanic activity occurs underwater, mostly at depths of several kilometres in the deep ocean but, in contrast to terrestrial volcanoes, even detecting that an eruption has occurred on the seafloor is extremely challenging.

‘Consequently, there remains much for scientists to learn about submarine volcanism and its effects on the marine environment.’

In 2019, the birth of an underwater volcano in the Indian Ocean is thought to have caused a succession of mysterious quakes that were felt around the world.

Short bursts of seismic activity were picked up by sensors up to 10,000 miles away from the location of the ‘submarine volcano’ near the French Island of Mayotte.

Researchers at France‘s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), wanted to clarify the origin of the small quakes which shook the island, located between Africa and Madagascar.

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According to the French Geological and Mining Research Bureau, the team discovered a new ‘submarine volcano’ situated 31 miles (50 km) away.


Earthquakes are detected by tracking the size, or magnitude, and intensity of the shock waves they produce, known as seismic waves.

The magnitude of an earthquake differs from its intensity.

The magnitude of an earthquake refers to the measurement of energy released where the earthquake originated.

Magnitude is calculated based on measurements on seismographs.

The intensity of an earthquake refers to how strong the shaking that is produced by the sensation is.

A 5.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California on Thursday at 10.30am

According to the United States Geological Survey, ‘intensity is determined from the effects on people, human structures and the natural environment’.

Earthquakes originate below the surface of the earth in a region called the hypocenter.

During an earthquake, one part of a seismograph remains stationary and one part moves with the earth’s surface.

The earthquake is then measured by the difference in the positions of the still and moving parts of the seismograph.

Source: Dailymail

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