Underwater volcano erupts off Oregon coast

Small earthquakes on the seafloor cause Axial Seamount to erupt.

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Small earthquakes on the seafloor have caused Axial Seamount to erupt, scientists believe.

The eruption has no affect on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, OregonLive.com reports.

Oregon State University geologist Bill Chadwick is hoping to use the eruption as a chance to learn lessons for above-ground volcanoes.

“Axial Seamount is a pure example, if you will,” he said. “It has relatively simple plumbing.”

Chadwick and other scientists watch the signals at Axial Seamount in real-time via a cable laid out on the seafloor. The cable is part of the Ocean Observatories Initiative funded by the National Science Foundation. The instruments that sent back the volcano’s measurements were installed only last summer, said Chadwick, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. He is also affiliated with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

From the Portland Business Journal

“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,” he said in a release. “There are some hints that lava did erupt, but we may not know for sure until we can get out there with a ship.”

He quickly added that the eruption isn’t a threat to those living on the coast. because the gradual seafloor movements can’t cause tsunamis. Researchers could further confirm the eruption on an expedition this month.

In other ecological news, more than 60 percent of Oregon is now considered in “severe drought” conditions.

The Statesman Journal reports: 

The U.S. Drought Monitor has a six-level scale: no drought, abnormally dry, and moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional drought. It puts two-thirds of California in extreme or exceptional drought, a figure that has not changed since last week.

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown has declared drought emergencies in seven counties, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made 20 counties eligible for drought disaster assistance. It’s the fourth-straight year of drought for the state.

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