Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

The 1998 eruption of Axial Seamount: New insights on submarine lava flow emplacement from high-resolution mapping



[1] Axial Seamount, an active submarine volcano on the Juan de Fuca Ridge at 46°N, 130°W, erupted in January 1998 along 11 km of its upper south rift zone. We use ship-based multibeam sonar, high-resolution (1 m) bathymetry, sidescan sonar imagery, and submersible dive observations to map four separate 1998 lava flows that were fed from 11 eruptive fissures. These new mapping results give an eruption volume of 31 × 106 m3, 70% of which was in the northern-most flow, 23% in the southern-most flow, and 7% in two smaller flows in between. We introduce the concept of map-scale submarine lava flow morphology (observed at a scale of hundreds of meters, as revealed by the high-resolution bathymetry), and an interpretive model in which two map-scale morphologies are produced by high effusion-rate eruptions: “inflated lobate flows” are formed near eruptive vents, and where they drain downslope more than 0.5–1.0 km, they transition to “inflated pillow flows.” These two morphologies are observed on the 1998 lava flows at Axial. A third map-scale flow morphology that was not produced during this eruption, “pillow mounds,” is formed by low effusion-rate eruptions in which pillow lava piles up directly over the eruptive vents. Axial Seamount erupted again in April 2011 and there are remarkable similarities between the 1998 and 2011 eruptions, particularly the locations of eruptive vents and lava flow morphologies. Because the 2011 eruption reused most of the same eruptive fissures, 58% of the area of the 1998 lava flows is now covered by 2011 lava.