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Cutting-edge research in marine supervolcanoes

  • Updated on March 1, 2016

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Prof. TATSUMI Yoshiyuki - Kobe Ocean-Bottom Exploration Center

In 1973, the new volcanic island of Nishinoshima in Japan was created by submarine volcanic activity. In 2013 a further eruption took place, and the resultant volcanic island is said to hold the key to solving a great mystery. I am researching the process of new land formation triggered by this submarine eruption, a process which offers clues to solving the puzzle of continental creation on Earth. In collaboration with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and other organizations, we are excavating the ocean floor area around Nishinoshima. By comparing ocean-floor magma with the magma above sea level, I am investigating how the heavy parts (oceanic) and light parts (continental) of the earth’s crust are created.

Kobe University has also created the world’s first submarine volcano observation network, based around the Kikai Caldera (a giant marine caldera in southern Kyushu), in collaboration with JAMSTEC and Kyoto University. If we can observe magma buildup using imaging technology similar to a CT scan, this could enable us to predict volcanic eruptions in advance. We intend to monitor the magma activity, basic composition and components of the giant caldera by triggering artificial earthquakes and imaging the entire crust beneath the volcano. In addition to disaster mitigation, this project will also contribute to the evaluation of ocean floor mineral deposits.

In October 2015 Kobe University established the Kobe Ocean Bottom Exploration Center (KOBEC) in order to train human resources in the maritime sciences. This Center provides students with an opportunity to study Earth from a broad planetary perspective. In order to investigate the mystery of Earth’s creation, our boats are ready to set sail from Kobe – the city which has weathered volcanic disasters – to new undersea frontiers.