I see no need of waffling about with a long introduction, as if making a point requires foreplay. The simple fact of the matter is that a hole appeared in thick sea-ice in the spring of 2021 in the rough vicinity of the undersea, volcanic Gakkel Ridge. Although for a time the actual sea-ice drifted to the east the hole “burned” its way west, and then when the sea-ice shifted back to the west the hole “burned” to the east. This strongly suggested (to me) that the power that made the hole was different from the power that moved the sea-ice. My guess was that the sea-ice was shifted by surface winds, but the hole was made by a plume of warm water up-welling from lava beneath. Over the course of two months the hole gradually drifted across the 90 degree east longitude line, and then seemed to loose its power to keep a separate identity. Converging winds eventually crunched the sides of the hole together, creating a pressure ridge where there once had been a hole, as the entire area moved towards Fram Strait, and towards being eventually flushed down into the Atlantic.
I then did my best to stir up some debate about volcanoes melting sea-ice, at various sites, but failed. Then I sulked, and morosely watched the same area, to see if there were other “holes”. I saw nothing for months, until last summer, much later in the melt season when the sea-ice was much thinner. In late August four holes appeared. They were fleeting and ephemeral, but not associated with any divergence of sea-ice that I could see. Interestingly, later they too collapsed into four small spots of pressure ridging, and began slowly drifting towards Fram Strait.
There you have it. That is the totality of my evidence. Or, well, there was an earlier hole around a seven years ago that got me in the habit of watching that area. A person commenting on this site sent me a screen-shot picture and asked me if I thought the pictured hole might be caused by a volcano. I had to confess I had no idea, but that when I tried to research the topic I noticed people avoiding the topic, which did seem odd.
To be blunt, the topic seems to cause some researchers to practically break out in hives. They’d deflect and distract and change the subject. I assumed it was because it was in some ways taboo to suggest anything other than CO2 causes decreases in sea-ice. The powers that control the puppet strings of funding, of advances and grants and promotions and awards, had somehow made it clear that there are certain directions research shalt not go. What boobs.
Besides steering carefully around the reefs of talk-about-seafloor-volcanoes, researchers also seemed to need to walk-on-eggs concerning solar cycles, whether they be the shorter sunspot cycle or longer cycles involving whether the sun is “noisy” or “quiet”. Apparently the powers-that-be noted the sun is not influenced by the levels of CO2 on earth, and therefore they decreed, “Thou shalt dismiss the sun as a cause for increases and decreases in sea-ice.” Fluctuation in solar radiation were then obediently scoffed-at as “too small to matter”, even as a tinier change, from three-parts-per-ten-thousand to four-parts-per-ten-thousand, were claimed to matter hugely…(in terms of funding, I think. Do you want a paycheck? Or not?)
I find this all frustrating, and just plain annoying. When simple observation notices a curiosity, it is only natural for curious people to go look at the curiosity. In a sense a curiosity is an opportunity. It is a chance to discover. And most scientists delight in discovery.
Besides those who shy away from talking about the possible effects of volcanoes on the floor of the arctic sea, there is the occasional lone wolf. Often they are amateurs like myself, who don’t make any money off being curious, nor require any funding to remain curious. As lone wolves, we scent the blood in the water; perhaps we should be called lone sharks. Whatever you call us, we occasionally meet in obscure chat rooms and compare notes, and bounce wild theories around, and nearly always vent our frustration that there is not more research on what should be researched.
One thing about the Gakkel Ridge is that every time they have managed to scrape together funding and do a little research they have discovered things that have shattered science’s preconceptions.
One thing discovered, or rather verified, was reports of volcanic craters down roughly two and half miles beneath the ice. The craters had been seen by Russian and British and American submarines using sonar during their Cold War shenanigans, and the craters puzzled scientists because, according to theory, there could not be craters down so deep. Craters require gaseous explosions, and according to theory the pressures were too extreme down so deep. Even CO2 exists as a liquid, (as it does under pressure in a fire extinguisher,) down that deep. This was a curiosity that attracted the curious.
There seemed to be two ways a volcano could explode. A caladra could eject a plug of lava from its vent, reducing pressure in the lava beneath which then, like soda pop in a bottle when the cap is removed, would abruptly release gas at such a rapid rate it would explode lava out of the volcano, creating a crater. Also, should the caldera eject enough lava it would become an enormous cavern of super-heated air, floored by a lake of lava, whereupon a failure of a wall and an inrush of ocean water could cause a sudden, tremendous creation of steam capable of blowing the top of a mountain off. However it seemed impossible to meet such a criterion two and a half miles down. The pressure would be too extreme. Most explorations by robot submarines suggested at such depths lava could only ooze out of mid-ocean rifts. Yet here there were craters! Was there some third way volcanoes could explode?
A series of undersea earthquakes in 1999 made curiosity too great to bear, and in 2007 a robotic submarine was sent down to take a look. There was fresh evidence a never-seen-before (at such depth) eruption had spread volcanic shards over a 10 km2 area.
If you glance through the above article you will notice it does not mention anything about warming water or melting sea-ice. I think what got them in trouble with the powers-that-be was when they attempted to theorize what could have caused a blast under such pressure. They theorized it was impossible to create steam under such pressure, but if sufficiently high levels of CO2 could be drawn from the lava it could be heated to a degree where it became gaseous. And the lead scientist likely made a political mistake by saying:
“This means that a tremendous blast of carbon dioxide was released into the water column during the explosive eruption.”
I imagine this broke the commandment, “Thou shalt not say there is any source of CO2 other than fossil fuels.” Call me a suspicious old coot if you wish, but, in terms of research on Gakkel Ridge, you could have heard a pin drop for nearly 15 years. (There was one study in 2014 I can find little about, and there may have been some others, but, if so, they received very little publicity, and were shadow banned so effectively, I haven’t found word of them on the web. If you find one, please alert me in the comments below.)
But now at long last some research is going on up there. But I find it amusing the lengths they’ve gone to assure everyone their research has nothing to do with climate, CO2, or sea-ice. The research is ongoing by NASA, and it’s aim has nothing to do with Earth. It has to do with the exploration of “icy worlds” like Europa (a moon of Jupiter) and Enceladus (a moon of Saturn). Far enough away for you?
I can’t help but chuckle over the language they use. In a related NASA paper I read,
“We should be pinching ourselves because it turns out that the first vent-site tracked to source in the Arctic is a very useful analog for answering questions pertinent to Enceladus missions,” said Chris German of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
In a sense I feel a little sad. Are they not allowed to find things that might be very useful to answering questions pertinent to planet Earth?
However I have hope. In the same paper I spotted the line,
When collecting samples from the plume of material emanating from the vent, the scientists uncovered other ways in which this hydrothermal system is unique.
You see that word, “unique”? That means it was never seen before. That means it cannot have been expected. That means it is puzzling, and that word “puzzling” has the power to draw scientific minds like a light draws moths.
No matter how hard the powers-that-be use mothballs, the moths will find a way to see the light.
(P.S. I am sketching out a future post on the effects a lava flow might have on the currents of an Arctic Ocean. To play it safe this Arctic Ocean will not be on Earth, but on a planet called Mirth. Mirth is exactly like Earth, but on Mirth they are allowed to have volcanoes melt sea-ice.)