Volcaniclastic density currents explain widespread and diverse seafloor impacts of the 2022 Hunga Volcano eruption

Seabrook, Sarah; Mackay, Kevin; Watson, Sally J.; Clare, Michael A. ORCID:; Hunt, James E.; Yeo, Isobel A. ORCID:; Lane, Emily M.; Clark, Malcolm R.; Wysoczanski, Richard; Rowden, Ashley A.; Kula, Taaniela; Hoffmann, Linn J.; Armstrong, Evelyn; Williams, Michael J. M.. 2023 Volcaniclastic density currents explain widespread and diverse seafloor impacts of the 2022 Hunga Volcano eruption. Nature Communications, 14 (1).

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The impacts of large terrestrial volcanic eruptions are apparent from satellite monitoring and direct observations. However, more than three quarters of all volcanic outputs worldwide lie submerged beneath the ocean, and the risks they pose to people, infrastructure, and benthic ecosystems remain poorly understood due to inaccessibility and a lack of detailed observations before and after eruptions. Here, comparing data acquired between 2015 - 2017 and 3 months after the January 2022 eruption of Hunga Volcano, we document the far-reaching and diverse impacts of one of the most explosive volcanic eruptions ever recorded. Almost 10 km3 of seafloor material was removed during the eruption, most of which we conclude was redeposited within 20 km of the caldera by long run-out seafloor density currents. These powerful currents damaged seafloor cables over a length of >100 km, reshaped the seafloor, and caused mass-mortality of seafloor life. Biological (mega-epifaunal invertebrate) seafloor communities only survived the eruption where local topography provided a physical barrier to density currents (e.g., on nearby seamounts). While the longer-term consequences of such a large eruption for human, ecological and climatic systems are emerging, we expect that these previously-undocumented refugia will play a key role in longer-term ecosystem recovery.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 2041-1723
Date made live: 14 Dec 2023 22:21 +0 (UTC)

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