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Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Underwater Volcanic Activity Alters Climate Change

Submarine volcano

Erupting submarine volcano

A recent study reported the fall and rise of the sea levels during or after the Ice Ages influenced the amount of magma spewed by submarine volcanoes.

In addition, the carbon dioxide released by underwater volcanoes may have influenced climate change in the long run.

"People have ignored seafloor volcanoes on the idea that their influence is small - but that's because they are assumed to be in a steady state, which they're not," says Maya Tolstoy, study author and a marine geophysicist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

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Researchers studied the valleys and ridges created by volcanic activity on the ocean floors. They explained the oceanic crust is constantly renewed by underwater volcanic chains called spreading ridges.

The oceanic spreading ridges are cracks along the ocean bottom where magma (molten rock) can reach the surface, cool down and form new crust.

The ridges are located between tectonic plates, but as these plates move away, the new crust cracks and sinks resulting in a series of gaps or valleys between the chains of volcanoes. This mechanism leads to the formation of underwater geological features of parallel lines of ridges and valleys.

The team concluded the ridges were actually marking the cycles of freezing and melting over a 100,000 year period. Scientists explained the crust was thinner in some locations because underwater volcanic activity was slowed down by the heavier body of water linked to an increased sea level.

How much carbon dioxide is released by these underwater eruptions? That's a question climate scientists are going to want to answer. If it's significant, it could mean major changes to climate models.

Scientists also plan to study if the boost in volcanic activity during ice ages accelerated long-term global warming through higher amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

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