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Explorers Discover Undersea Volcano Spewing Mud and Methane in the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean explorers have discovered an undersea volcano spewing mud and methane from inside another, larger crater that may have formed after a catastrophic eruption at the end of the last ice age.
New Discovery in Barents Sea
Scientists have discovered this unusual feature about 80 miles (130 km) south of Norway’s Bear Island in the Barents Sea. The volcano, which the team named the Borealis Mud Volcano, is the second of its kind to be discovered in Norwegian waters.
Forskere har oppdaget en ny leirevulkan på hasts bunn i Barentshavet. Den befinner seg inne i et stort krater og spyer ut en blanding av vann, metan og finkornede partikler https://t.co/8IBFs1SiT2#geology#delete#kunscape#formidlingrice.twitter.com/peeiKZtbGl
— Geoforskning.no (@geoforskning) May 16, 2023
Discovery by Advanced Arctic Methane Knowledge Expedition
Stephen Boyens, professor University of Tromsø and co-leader of the Advanced Arctic Methane Knowledge (AKMA) expedition behind the new discovery, said: “Exploring the seafloor and discovering new methane leaks is like looking for hidden treasure.”
“Every time we dive to the bottom of the sea, it feels like we are just beginning to understand the incredible diversity of these filtration systems,” Bowens added in a statement.
What is a Marine Mud Volcano?
A marine mud volcano is a geological structure formed by the release of mud fluids and gas, mainly methane.
Borealis Volcano has a diameter of about 23 feet (7 meters) and a height of about 8 feet (2.5 meters). On May 7, scientists used a remote-controlled rover to film a small mountain that constantly emits a cloudy liquid that scientists say is rich in methane.
Methane is found underground and under the seabed and is the result of various geological and biological processes. When it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it turns into a powerful greenhouse gas and contributes to climate change.
A Unique Discovery
The newly discovered volcano sits at the center of another much larger crater, 984 feet (300 meters) wide and 82 feet (25 meters) deep. According to the statement, the unusual formation is located 1,312 feet (400 meters) below sea level and was likely caused by a sudden and massive methane eruption after the last ice age, 18,000 years ago.
Scientists have found that the sides of the volcano are teeming with animals that feed on carbonate crusts, which are mineral crusts that form when microorganisms consume methane and produce bicarbonate as a by-product, according to a study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Ecological research and public health that took shape thousands of years ago.
More Discoveries in Norwegian Waters
The only other known mud volcano in Norwegian waters is Haakon Mosby. According to the University of Bergen’s Center for Geobiology, in 1995 a 0.6 mile (1 km) wide band was discovered on the sea floor south of Svalbard in 1995.
Underwater mud volcanoes are hard to find and map, but scientists estimate there could be hundreds or thousands on the sea floor, according to a 2021 report published in Lecture Notes in Earth system sciences.
Importance of Studying Mud Volcanoes
These volcanoes provide a rare window into the geologic processes that take place deep in the earth’s crust, as they primarily erupt water, minerals, and fine sediments from those depths. They also provide clues about past environments and conditions on Earth and could provide insight into systems on other planets, Panieri said.
The discovery of the Borealis Mud Volcano by the AKMA expedition is a significant addition to our knowledge about marine mud volcanoes and their geological and biological importance. The study of these geological structures may provide valuable insights into climate change and the history of our planet.