Megaplumes and Volcanic Gasses

Well, a bit more “Settle Science”…

Seems we’ve figured out that we really don’t know what is happening on the ocean floor in terms of volcanic venting of massive amounts of heat and gasses after all…

(h/t to Scarlet Pumpernickel )


Hydrothermal “Megaplume” Found in Indian Ocean
Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
December 12, 2005

Yes, that’s 2005, but I still like the article…

An enormous hydrothermal “megaplume” found in the Indian Ocean serves as a dramatic reminder that underwater volcanoes likely play an important role in shaping Earth’s ocean systems, scientists report.

The plume, which stretches some 43.5 miles (70 kilometers) long, appears to be active on a previously unseen scale.

“In a nutshell, this thing is at least 10 times—or possibly 20 times—bigger than anything of its kind that’s been seen before,” said Bramley Murton of the British National Oceanography Centre.

Scientists reported the finding last week at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco. Researchers also announced newly discovered deep-sea hydrothermal fields in the Arctic Ocean and the south Atlantic.

The appearance of hydrothermal vents around the world suggests that they are a far more common part of the ocean system than once believed and could be a major influence on circulation patterns and ocean chemistry.
“I’d be surprised if in the next five years we didn’t experience a mini-revolution in terms of finding these [fields] in places where they are not supposed to exist,” said geophysicist Robert Reves-Sohn of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Volcanic Bombshell

Hydrothermal vents are volcanic hotspots that emit gasses and mineral-enriched water as hot as 760°F (400°C). The heat from these vents supports unique ecosystems where creatures survive using thermal and chemical energy in place of sunlight.

Megaplumes like the one found in the Indian Ocean are probably caused by undersea volcanic eruptions, though scientists aren’t yet certain.

“Once formed they can possibly hang around for years,” Murton said. The heat from such events could have a dramatic effect on ocean circulation, which plays a role in determining Earth’s climate.

“The energy content is an order of magnitude greater [than ordinary plumes], and the thermal power may be many orders of magnitude greater,” Murton said.

“A normal hydrothermal vent might produce something like 500 megawatts, while this is producing 100,000 megawatts. It’s like an atom bomb down there.”

Recent studies have attempted to factor the heat from the world’s known hydrothermal ridges into ocean circulation models.

“Some studies estimate that for the Pacific, background thermal heating might increase ocean circulation by up to 50 percent,” Murton said.

Regular hydrothermal fields stir the water for only a few hundred meters (about a thousand feet) above the ocean floor. “But these megaplumes can reach a column of 1,000 to 1,500 meters [3,280 to 4,920 feet], so it reaches right up into the midwater,” he said.

But even the Indian Ocean megaplume may be small compared to larger underwater eruptions that have as yet gone undetected.
The new data on hydrothermal fields and megaplumes underscores the fact that volcanic activity on the ocean floor remains a largely mysterious phenomenon.

“Ninety percent of the Earth’s volcanic activity takes place underwater,” Murton said. “Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

So we know we are substantially clueless about 90% of the global volcanic activity, that it has a massive energy and CO2 output, and that it varies in ways we do not ken. It stirs the ocean from great depth to much higher levels than we ever thought, and “is like an atom bomb” in terms of energy; but can run for years…

Yeah, so much for “settled science”…

So riddle me this (Batman):

How in the world can we know if, for example, the reason volcanoes and cold periods come together along with C02 changes, might be just that the volcanic system gets going really hot, dumps a lot of gasses and heat in to the ocean, and sets off a load of quakes and volcanoes on land too. The net effect off all the CO2 in the ocean being a shift of C12 / C13 ratio and the overturning of a load of cold ocean water to the surface. Get those sub ocean spreading ridges going faster and who knows WHAT is going to be the result. We assume they run at a constant rate, yet we know that volcanic processes are subject to long cycle times and quasi-periodic fluctuations. Why would the sub-ocean parts be any different?

How much CO2 do the sub-ocean volcanoes put out?

How does it vary over time?

With what isotopic structure?

How much heat?

Is it that added heat, or the pumping of deep cold water upward, or just the general increase in circulation rate that matters? And what does it do?

“Climate Scientists” are just too damn ignorant to even realize the depths of their ignorance. Too filled with hubris and ego to see the truly interesting things we could be learning. And they have spent far too much time “sucking their own exhaust” to “wake up and smell the volcanoes”…

If the recent increase in volcanoes above the surface is matched, but 10 times over, below the surface, there is one heck of a lot of “something going on”. And just because it is out of sight, does not mean it ought to be out of mind.

FWIW, There is a nice article on the same topic at WUWT that has decent video and some more discussion:

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in AGW Science and Background, Earth Sciences and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Megaplumes and Volcanic Gasses

  1. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    Carlsberg Ridge is an active area of interest

    There have been some large quakes along this ridge in the last 10 years.

    And some nice warmings

    Title: Detection of an unusually large hydrothermal event plume above the slow-spreading Carlsberg Ridge : NW Indian Ocean
    Author: Murton, Bramley J.; Baker, Edward T.; Sands, Carla M.; German, Christopher R.
    Abstract: About 90% of Earth’s volcanism occurs along the global mid-ocean ridge system. Here, sporadic volcanic and tectonic activity is thought to cause cataclysmic release of hydrothermal fluids, forming event plumes. Each plume often contains as much hydrothermal effluent and heat as chronic hydrothermal venting from a typical vent site discharges during a year. To date, only a few event plumes have been detected, and only above intermediate-rate spreading ridges in the Pacific. Here, we report the first evidence for an unusually large event plume that originated from the slow-spreading (3 cm/yr full-rate) Carlsberg Ridge in the NW Indian Ocean. At 70 km long, up to 4540 km3 in volume and with up to 24 × 1016 J of excess heat, this event plume was substantially larger than previous ones and demonstrates that dispersion of hydrothermal heat and biological products from slow spreading ridges may be more significant and effective than hitherto imagined.

    Which is interesting when there is also a 1:1 correlation with earthquakes on the east pacific rise and el nino…;)

  2. PhilJourdan says:

    It is indeed the wise man who “knows that he knows not”. So you are accurate to call the climate scientists ignorant. They do not even know that they know not.

  3. I recall reading, a few years ago, about microphones dropped into the water off the West Antarctic Peninsula. Instead of the wildlife they were hoping to hear, the recording was dominated by seismic noises from undersea volcanoes. Around the same time, fishing boats were reporting the ocean in the area was discolored and frequently smelled bad.

    And that entire section of the Antarctic ocean has gotten “anomalously” warmer.

    But, we are repeatedly told, it is nothing to do with volcanoes. It is Anthropogenic Global Warming, and requires immediate Western sacrifice.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  4. Curt says:

    Ian Plimer has been roundly mocked by the righteous for emphasizing this point — we know virtually nothing about how much heat and CO2 these things are putting out, and that the plausible range of the CO2 could easily exceed anthropogenic emissions.

  5. Pascvaks says:

    Someone (or something) on this planet (or above) is picking up the signals and hasn’t yet realized that what they are looking at is deep water volcanic in origin. Probably someone at Bell Labs? Marshall Space Flight Center? UAH? Stanford? Tokyo U.? The AGW “Snake Oil Hucksters” have sold so many fools on their “Answer-To-Everything” mumbo-jumbo that no one is thinking anymore. Oh well, such is history, after all the marbles are counted, people win some and eventually loose it all in the end. I think it’s called “mental acuity”. It’s a generational thingy-wingy. Comes and goes like arctic ice they say.

  6. Ralph B says:

    What chaps my hide is hearing the fools talking about ocean acidification. First of all it’s basic…but never mind…if you compare the CO2 being dumped in by these volcanoes to fossil fuel combustion, hay yay yay. Of course it’s not only CO2 but the sulfur too. I am a little surprised the oceans are even basic at all. The amount of calcium they hold must be enormous

  7. mitchel44 says:

    Lots of good stuff here,

    But the Eruptions blog just posted a new one, , Why volcanism isn’t the source of increasing carbon dioxide emissions. He quotes a recent paper, , but all of the CO2 emissions estimates used in the paper date from 1998 or earlier (or at least the ones quoted in the text, I did not search the supplemental material).

    The majority of the ridge hydrothermal papers are dated since 2004,

    Is this a case of misdirection?

  8. George says:

    Actually, what is or is not the source of CO2 emissions is irrelevant. Nobody has shown why we should even care about CO2 emissions. Other than some hypothesis backed up by computer models written by people who share the hypothesis and who also produce temperature data “adjusted” to agree with the models, we have no hard evidence to show that any of the damage supposed from increasing CO2 emissions is even happening.

    Satellite measurements (unadjusted) no overall ocean sea level rise. Satellite temperature measurements show not atmospheric heating since about 2000. ARGO shows no increase on global ocean temperatures.

    Why are we supposed to give a rat’s pair of hips about CO2 in the first place?

    And, on top of all of that, North American temperatures have been plummeting at a rage of nearly 0.8 degrees/decade since 1998.

  9. George says:

    And, of course, there is this:

    The “rebranding” of Global Warming

  10. Jeff Alberts says:

    Oh man, Serioso’s gonna be pissed!

  11. George says:

    Man, I typed that one in a hurry. Rage should be rate and other various typos. That’s what I get for trying to type while also cutting a network over to new equipment at the same time :)

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ralph B:

    It’s not just the calcium. Look up “Manganese Nodules”. The entire ocean floor (and to an unknown depth) is covered in chunks of metal. Megatons. It’s hard to make a solution acidic when it is in contact with megatons of reduced metal…


    I had the pleasure of listening to Ian Plimer at a talk at ICCC4 and sitting next to him during another. Very insightful discussion…. and a heck of a nice guy.


    I think it is a case of “self deception bias”. They write a paper based on “the best estimate” of volcanic CO2, then use that to prove the estimate? OK… Looks like a bunch of math then follows to say “if it got this much bigger, there would be that many volcanoes and that much magma”; but ignore that a midocean spreading zone, spreading faster, just makes faster plate spreading (and eventually more earthquakes and volcanoes on land, but a decade or three later… oh, wait, we’ve started having more…) Detecting that faster spreading would be rather hard, and not particularly dramatic, as the magma cools on contact wih the water and forms new sea floor. Basically, not much ‘evidence’ other than warmer plume of water, OR a faster moving plume, and higher CO2 / SO4 concentrations as they mix.

    Again, it is of the form “if we assume nothing changed with the spreading Zone, then nothing changed with the big volcanoes, then we found nothing changed but human fuel use; so that must be it.” (Or, more curtly: “If we assume nothing changed in the rocks, nothing changed in the rocks.”)


    Do rats HAVE hips? Looks to me like a wide belly, just enough pelvic bone to anchor the legs, and this round orifice under the tail… No waist to speak of, so no “hips”… or maybe I have bias about what constutes hips… ;-)

    Perhaps you meant “rats hind orifice” ?

    “plummeting at a rage of nearly 0.8 degrees / decade”

    OOhhh, I like it! Mother nature having a rant at us for hubris ;-)

    BTW, love this paragraph from the “rebranding” review:

    If the global warming/climate change/planetary boundaries scare turns out to be just the latest example of bad science being used to manufacture a convenient crisis, what are the ethical ramifications of acting in haste? Is it moral for the current generation to damage global economic growth over a bogus calamity? Is it moral for the dreams and aspirations of the poor to be denied as a precaution? It is astounding how sure climate ethicists are that they are right and all others are wrong. Such moral certitude is only found in philosophers—scientists, at least real scientists, know better.

    @Jeff Alberts:

    Now now, no “piling on” ;-)

    Besides, it is for Serioso to decide his / her preferred emotional state. ( I like mellow and centered, myself, and return to it whenever possible; but others may have different preferences and we simply must let them have ownership of that choice of theirs…)


    Once did a “live cutover” of a major coffee company (who’s coffee many of you will have consumed) with “live” order entry from their hundreds of national (and beyond) “stores” happening via the internet. Took them to 2 ISPs for redundant non-stop order entry, changed the whole “front door” stack (boundary routers, firewall, load balancers, etc) and added some more core routers, and, just for fun, The Boss of the IT department let us do a live cutover of the entire company internal IP numbering scheme between about noon and 2 pm on a work day. Only outages were ‘blink cut’ outages and one server where we needed to flush cache and ARP tables to get it seen again. About a sub-minute outage for most things.

    Nobody really noticed anything (even though we had announced “expect disruption”). At the end of the day, everything was running much faster, much more reliably, and several long duration “legacy issues” were gone.

    I think it was day two or three that we finally backed out the last of the dual IP numbers on the router nics and did the final cleanup. Our basic process was to dual IP the new gear, either bring up the new numbers and wires in parallel, or do a “blink cutover” of the wires – so, for example, a switch with 24 user lines would have the uplink unplugged from the old core router and plugged into the new core router – flush arp, and go…folks had been told “when in doubt, just reboot your desktop computer” and that refresh of IP took care of most things, but the reality was that most folks didn’t even need that as their old number space was routable on the new gear. So we’d power up the new router. Check it 8 ways from sunday. Bring up the new number uplink on it, and blink cut gear from the old one (and swap the legacy IPs if needed), then swap the dozen or two “uplinks” from the switches on the old router to the new one as fast as hands could move.

    Well less than a minute. (two guys and 4 hands on the switch wires, one guy on the router, one guy doing config mods in sync, 2 doing QA on any servers involved… like a technical ballet… or Kata…) Inspect for any “issues” and polish them (like stale ARP or a server that downed it’s nic for no good reason… but even there the servers were “dual nic” so one interface was still up on the redundant path during the cut / re-start the nic. Microsoft was incredibly brittle on such things, while Linux / Unix was never a problem… Take a long breath. Double check for issues. Move to the next one…

    Oh, and before the project started we’d set the TTL for DHCP to under 1 hour. As that unit of time passed, folks on the ‘new gear’ would refresh with a new address in the new IP block. Anyone with an undiagnosed issue, often had it resolve (even before they discovered it) simply by being at lunch during most of the cutover.

    I think we had a total of 2 folks call in with “I think something is wrong” and they were “cured” with “reboot your computer”. Their particular flavor of Microsoft being in some way more easily confused…. We also discovered one outlaying building with a “repeater” to it that we’d not readressed. So that building was “down” for about 30 minutes as we found what / where that particular box was and documented it…

    For a “gutsy thing” like redoing the entire network core and ISP services and IP numbering scheme “live”, the impact was as close to zero as I can imagine. The client was VERY happy, as he had less total problems than were in the network prior to the cut, and we’d got it done 2 weeks ahead of when the schedule had called for ‘weekend downtime’ to do it. Just loved working with that guy. Where you can say “Prudent and cautious is this way in 2 weeks, OR, we can do this with these small but real risks.” and not only did he “get it” but saw we knew our stuff enough to “do it” as advertized.

    Rarely does a client let you demonstrate that you CAN do trapeze and high wire without a net…

    Sometimes I miss that kind of work… Then I remember the clients where we would spend 4 weeks in meetings just trying to convince them that with a full weekend of downtime we could really really honest swap out some router or 6509 without bringing their company to ruin… We could have had it done in less time that in took to SCHEDULE the meetings, and without anyone noticing… even without downtime… But folks like to treat everyone like they are the guys in the Clown Car…

    (At one client like that they had the “network from hell” with some packets taking routes through 3 routers and 2 IP spaces to travel between two adjacent desktop computers; no docs, and no idea what was what or why. While fixing one thing one night, their single “boundry router” to the internet died. Just would not boot. I looked at the “old stuff” in their “junk room” and in 5 hours built a router from odds and ends and had it configged and them back up online inside the scheduled downtime. All while the IT Assistant Manager fretted and was sure we were “screwed”. After THAT, they let me fix the other stuff that was just crazy as I’d recommended to begin with… like multiple IP spaces on the same wires as they had just layered a new router onto the same old router and space and sometimes things switched based on MAC and sometimes they would route based on IP and sometimes packets would just wander around a long time… Amazing how hard it can be to get trust from someone who is confused and paranoid. Well, maybe not paranoid, but they had been trained by experience that if you touched anything it would break and they could not get it to work right again… ignorance trains you to fear…)

    BTW, the IT guy at the Coffee Company had been a nuclear sub Captain in a prior life. He was very comfortable with “this bad thing might happen, and this is the max risk; with this benefit” and saying “Worth the risk, go for it”. He also had a way of looking you square in the eye and seeing your soul and knowing if you were speaking truth or Puff… I immagine that helped. We “clicked” as we were both “no BS” guys. He was “mission oriented” and we were “Get ‘R Done” oriented. One of the best contracts I ever worked… He would ask for the (near) impossible and we would say “You will let us do that? Oh Boy!” ;-)

    That they had Espresso machines with all the fixings and coffee roasted that day in all the break rooms didn’t hurt either ;-)

    Wonder if anyone needs any network installers…. with a fondness for coffee…

  13. George says:

    I am in the process of cutting the office over to a completely new hardware stack with a completely different network architecture. Rather than having, for example, an access switch with dual uplinks to a pair of core switches using something like spanning-tree to manage layer 2, we have deployed a technology that allows one to bind the two uplinks from the access switch as a single trunk but terminate the two links on different core switches. In other words, the vendor has technology where a single link-aggregation-group (LAG) can span chassis (Cisco calls it VSS, Brocade calls it MCT, Arista calls it mLAG). So now both links are active and failover is instant. No spanning-tree issues to deal with (e.g. one vendor sends BPDUs untagged on VLAN 1, other vendor sends 801.1q tagged BPDUs for each VLAN) and no pushing layer-3 all the way out to the access layer. It’s greatly simplifies the topology and makes healing from a fault extremely fast (you can power off the primary core switch and MAYBE lose a single packet). Top of rack access switches are “stacked” as one unit, each server has a pair of interfaces bonded together with one connected to each unit of the stack. You lose a NIC, port, cable, or switch, no problem, life goes on without a hitch.

    Yesterday’s exercise was moving all the physical connections over to the new core switches (pair of old Cisco Cat6500s being replaced with gear from a different vendor) which is operating currently just at layer 2 with the old units still doing the routing between VLANs. So it was a bunch of hot-cut “blink” outages as everything was moved over. But even those cause a problem for some things (e.g. a database where it’s storage is on NAS). So all that is done and the old Cats are “routers on a stick” at the moment. Now the only thing left to do is go through and one-by-one turn down the routing interfaces on the Ciscos and turn up the layer 3 VLAN interfaces on the new gear but I need to port over a bunch of access-lists and a few static routes before that can be done. We even did firewall cutovers from old PIX units that are no longer supported to newer ASA5500 series units and these allow bonding of interfaces to support the new topology scheme.

    Happiness is no more spanning-tree. And I really “get” what you are talking about with that old boss. The problem I have at the current place of employment is that nobody really understands networking and they don’t really know how to properly weigh the risks or benefits. The challenge with the new topology is noticing that there is a fault. In theory we can lose half the links and/or gear in the place and never even notice that there is a problem.

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    Sounds like fun! (Now I really want to play… 8-)

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