Discovering the immense force of volcanos, a new study suggested that there should be the right amount of energy from underwater eruptions to power the entire US. Such deep ocean rifts spew heat and release material from the Earth's crust. Harnessing this incredible power could take a very difficult effort.

Underwater Volcanoes Produce Energy Producing Megaplumes

Underwater volcanoes not only expel ash into the water like their land counterparts, but also create intense, superheated water cyclones called megaplumes that could fill around 40 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, Nature World News said in a report.

Scientists have long been fascinated with the idea of oceanic megaplumes and their deep origins, especially theories on how humanity can use the natural energy they emit. There has been not much research on seafloor volcanic activity and controlling its geothermal energy, but such megaplume occurrences are too infrequent and far off to provide any significant amount of information to understand their dynamics.

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However, a study published in Nature Communications, "Rapid heat discharge during deep-sea eruptions generates megaplumes and disperses tephra," used both direct observations and mathematical computations to explore the fact of such absence of data. To come up with a hypothesis, researchers used data gathered by others who studied the Northern Escanaba (NESCA) lava flow in the North Pacific in 2009.

Underwater volcano
(Photo: NOAA/National Science Foundation/Wikimedia Commons)

Based on their findings, the NESCA vent scorches the seawater to make violent torrents that can carry volcanic rock particles called "tephra" to about three miles off the eruption site. This enabled the new study to devise a simulation that can approximate the magnitude of the volcanic activity.

Researchers constrained the rate of power or energy release and reveal that during the eruption and found out that during the eruption, the power produced was enough to run the US for that specific period of time of around hours or days. They would not know how long they would last.

They added there was no chance of capturing the energy since they would not know when or where the eruptions will take place and how to reach such an eruption site. However, they said they merely proved how powerful such megaplumes could be.

Megaplumes Influence Dispersion of Seabed Organic Life

The scientists also considered how the megaplumes could affect the spreading of organic life into surrounding currents, Advanced Science News said in a report. Extremophiles or organisms that live in extreme environments deep in the ocean are sustained by the power from magmatic and volcanic activity, the researchers said. In addition to discovering surprising forms of life on the seafloor hydrothermal vents, researchers have also found a vast array of microbiomes within the oceanic crust.

The mechanism that makes microbes spread to other places is through megaplumes. The process was assisted by volcanic activity, the study revealed.

Volatile megaplumes might not be entirely sourced from molten lava erupting from seafloor splits and could be strengthened by boiling pockets of vented fluid within the Earth's crust that explode into the surge. These eruptions, researchers say, would involve an immense transfer of heat to the ocean, which is sourced from rapid venting of subsurface fluids.

Future studies, they say, would reveal how volcanic gases contribute to heat output, the connection between eruptions and vent sites, and how the tephra are immersed into megaplumes.

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