UW researchers studying hydrothermal vents help discover deepest volcanic eruption on Earth

Located in the center of the Pacific Ocean 124 miles from land, the Mariana Trench is the deepest natural point on Earth. The closest thing to the “middle of nowhere,” it takes days to get there and days to get back. For decades the trench has been shrouded in mystery with large portions of it unexplored.

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A team of scientists working to demystify the trench conducted research on hydrothermal vents along its back arc. While conducting their research on a cruise in 2015, scientists discovered an eruption 2.8 miles below sea level, making it the world’s deepest known underwater eruption.

As Joseph Resing, chief scientist on the team and affiliate assistant professor of oceanography at the UW put it, this discovery will have an enormous impact on the field of oceanography and understanding “how underwater volcanoes impact the chemistry of the Earth.”

In addition, this discovery opened up a whole new suite of biological sites to explore. As outlined in their research paper, this discovery helps us understand “frequency of eruptions, their volumes, and their chemical and biological impacts in the deep-sea.”

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