Discovering 20,000 new seamounts

Volcanoes reveal the history and evolution of the Earth

The deep sea mountains, called seamounts, are all of volcanic origin. While typical of rising mountains, subsidence, and erosion on land, these effects hardly play a role on the ocean floor. On the other hand, the sea floor is more volcanically active. On the submarine ridges, the boundaries between the plates of the oceanic crust, magma constantly rises up and forms a large number of mostly very young volcanoes.

Even far from this, the rising magma forms the so-called hot spots, where volcanoes arise that can rise up to ten kilometers above the sea floor. As tectonic plates slowly drift over these hotspots, they form entire chains of seamounts—like the Emperor Seamounts with the still-active Hawaiian Islands at their end. Seamount catalogs can therefore provide information on the behavior of hotspots and submarine ridges over tens of millions of years.

Underwater mountains also play a major role in other questions. In the polar regions of the ocean, for example, a great deal of water sinks into the deep sea—the same amount must rise again, but where it is is unknown. Experts hypothesize that giant whirlpools behind the Deep Sea Mountains transport water up from its deepest layers. However, the magnitude of the effect is unknown and also depends on the number of seamounts. In addition, seamounts harbor unique communities with a large number of species and a high biomass, which are important for fishing, for example.

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