The underwater Axial Seamount or Axial Volcano seems to be erupting. According to a prediction made by two scientists in a public lecture last September, this is right on schedule for the volcano 300 miles west of Cannon Beach, Oregon. 

Geolophysicist Dr. Scott Nooner from University of North Carolina Wilmington and geologist William Chadwick from Oregon State University compiled their numerous studies on the repeated cycle of Axial Volcano's deflation and inflation – same as a balloon as a response to magma filling up the seamount – and they came up with their public forecast of the eruption.

Last year, the National Science Foundation sponsored an installation of instruments, such as seafloor sensors, cables and power hubs, as part of a high-tech ocean observatory initiative. The installation enabled the scientists to observe the underwater movement around Axial Seamount in real time.

Over the past five months, eight seismometers recorded hundreds of small earthquakes — a signal that magma is shifting toward the surface.

Before midnight on April 23 till around noon on April 24, the seismic activity went over the charts as it registered approximately 8,000 earthquakes. The core of the volcanic crater sank around 6 feet over the course of 12 hours —an indicator of lava being swallowed from a reservoir below the summit.

Scientists can only verify the eruption after research ships scan the area this summer.

At any rate, the scientists confirmed that this volcanic eruption will not be a threat to the coastal communities. The earthquakes at Axial Seamount are very small – mostly magnitude 1 to 2 – and the seafloor movements are relatively slow and steady, not capable of causing a tsunami.

With its unique structure and close proximity to the northwest coast, the Axial Volcano is something of an ideal laboratory. The scientists are hoping their findings will assist in the forecasting future eruptions of volcanoes on land.

The last eruption of the Axial Seamount in 2011 was loosely predicted by Nooner and Chadwick, who announced in 2006 that the volcano was due for an eruption before 2014.

Funded by the NSF and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), additional research led to a refined forecast that the next eruption would be in 2015, based on the data that the rate of inflation has increased by about 400 percent since its eruption last 2011.

Photo: ierdnall | Flickr

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