The Mysterious Mountains Underneath the Sea: The Wonders of New England Seamounts

The Mysterious Mountains Underneath the Sea: The Wonders of New England Seamounts

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The Mysterious Mountains Underneath the Sea: The Wonders of New England Seamounts

Introduction
Seamounts are one of the most pervasive landforms in the world, and can be seen in various frequencies throughout ocean basins. Seamounts are remnants of volcanoes and can be described as underwater mountains that can take various shapes and sizes. Islands and seamounts are similar in the way they are formed but they are different because seamounts do not reach the oceans surface. The pacific basin—mainly the pacific tectonic plate—contains half the seamounts that can be seen in satellite altimetry datasets. The other half of the seamounts that can also been seen by satellite altimetry datasets reside in the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
Seamounts have steep flanks due to the cooling effect of the seawater as the magma pours out—unlike when the volcano is above sea level, the flanks are usually less steep. In deep waters the high water pressure allows a non-explosive eruption, taking the form of lava or pillow basalts. At this stage the seamounts remain circular. If the seamount is allowed to grow taller—and sufficient magma is available—then the flanks will express the gravitational stress by the development of rift zones, breaking the circular symmetry.
As the seamount grows taller and reaches sea level, water pressure can’t contain the gases in the magma, as it can in deep water. When pressures can no loner suppress the volcanic reaction, it results in a higher rate of explosive eruptions. Once the island is established the volcano enters the shield building stage, building the island higher. However, once the volcano is inactive there is nothing to replace the erosion. The seamount is then brought back to sea level ...


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... as the oceanic plate moved over a hotspot as a rate of 4.7cm a year. The whole chain of New England seamounts took 20 million years to complete, and started about 100-103million years ago. Shape and size of seamounts varies—smaller seamounts are typically more symmetrically round where larger ones are asymmetrical due to rift zones.
Seamounts affect local and global currents. As a current approaches a seamount upwelling occurs, mixing nutrient rich sediment into the waters. Some corals and sponges are known to have medicinal properties such as compounds for cancer treatment. Other studies show the benefit of using coral for bone grafting. Little is known about seamounts and the biodiversity that can be associated with them. From what we do know, seamounts are important features of the ocean, providing us with a whole diversity of life we have yet to explore.

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