Submarine radial vents on Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawai'i

Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
By: , and 



A 2002 multibeam sonar survey of Mauna Loa's western flank revealed ten submarine radial vents and three submarine lava flows. Only one submarine radial vent was known previously. The ages of these vents are constrained by eyewitness accounts, geologic relationships, Mn-Fe coatings, and geochemical stratigraphy; they range from 128 years B.P. to possibly 47 ka. Eight of the radial vents produced degassed lavas despite eruption in water depths sufficient to inhibit sulfur degassing. These vents formed truncated cones and short lava flows. Two vents produced undegassed lavas that created “irregular” cones and longer lava flows. Compositionally and isotopically, the submarine radial vent lavas are typical of Mauna Loa lavas, except two cones that erupted alkalic lavas. He-Sr isotopes for the radial vent lavas follow Mauna Loa's evolutionary trend. The compositional and isotopic heterogeneity of these lavas indicates most had distinct parental magmas. Bathymetry and acoustic backscatter results, along with photography and sampling during four JASON2 dives, are used to produce a detailed geologic map to evaluate Mauna Loa's submarine geologic history. The new map shows that the 1877 submarine eruption was much larger than previously thought, resulting in a 10% increase for recent volcanism. Furthermore, although alkalic lavas were found at two radial vents, there is no systematic increase in alkalinity among these or other Mauna Loa lavas as expected for a dying volcano. These results refute an interpretation that Mauna Loa's volcanism is waning. The submarine radial vents and flows cover 29 km2 of seafloor and comprise a total volume of ∼2×109 m3 of lava, reinforcing the idea that submarine lava eruptions are important in the growth of oceanic island volcanoes even after they emerged above sea level.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Submarine radial vents on Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawai'i
Series title Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
DOI 10.1029/2005GC001086
Volume 7
Issue 5
Year Published 2006
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Description Q05001, 28 p.
Country United States
State Hawai'i