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Underwater Volcanoes

September 6, 2007

A new count reveals hundreds of thousands of undersea volcanoes.


Uncovering underwater volcanoes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Up to three million underwater volcanoes may dot the ocean floor. That’s a rough estimate by British geophysicists John Hillier of Cambridge University and Tony Watts of Oxford. Hillier says they sifted through decades of sonar data from research ships, and directly counted over two hundred thousand volcanic peaks at least 100 meters high.

JOHN HILLIER (Cambridge University):
In previous studies, people have taken quite a small area, and only counted a few hundred, maybe up to one thousand of the small volcanoes.

Although the ships’ routes totaled nearly 25 million miles, Hillier and Watts still had to extrapolate their data to places the ships had never sailed. The findings could help explain not only the workings of the inner earth, but also the flow of nutrients through the ocean, which affects where marine life congregates. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.