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UL Lafayette researcher, Australian scientists make volcanic discovery

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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Dr. Eric Ferré is among a team of scientists whose research of a massive raft of porous volcanic rock discovered floating in the southwest Pacific Ocean has provided insight into the power of underwater eruptions.

The raft of pink pumice was discovered following an eruption of the Havre Seamount in 2012 in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The remote explosion went unnoticed; the discovery of the pumice – and its color – has helped the scientists tell the story of what happened.

In research published in the journal “Communications Earth and Environment” the scientists revealed insights into how magma can shoot out and up from underwater volcanoes. Ferré, director of UL Lafayette’s School of Geosciences, joined a team of Australian researchers for the study. It was led by Joseph Knafelc of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

The team’s findings challenge the known depth limits for deep-sea eruptions; findings also challenged assumptions that such eruptions can’t be explosive, instead producing lava flows on the seafloor or sea floor.

The pumice’s color indicates it was launched in a powerful jet from more than half a mile beneath the seafloor at temperatures above 1,300 degrees Farenheit in order for tiny iron minerals to oxidize and cause the reddening.

The thermal history of the rock means the core of the eruption column was unaffected by the cooling effects of the water.

Other researchers on the team included Professor Andrew Berry and Dr. Guil Mallman from the Australian National University, Professor David Gust and Dr. Henrietta Cathey from the Queensland University of Technology, and Daryl Howard from the Australian Synchrotron. Learn more about the scientist’s underwater volcano research here.

Photo caption: UL Lafayette’s Dr. Eric Ferré has collaborated with a team of Australian scientists whose research findings have provided insight into the power of underwater volcanic eruptions. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette

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