DCO Scientists Head to the Aleutian Islands

In September, several DCO scientists will embark on fieldwork along the Aleutian Arc, a chain of volcanic islands in the North Pacific ocean.

In September, several DCO scientists will embark on fieldwork along the Aleutian Arc, a chain of volcanic islands in the North Pacific ocean. DCO’s Tobias Fischer (University of New Mexico, USA), Elizabeth Cottrell (Smithsonian Institution, USA), and Taryn Lopez (University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA), will all be onboard. Terry Plank (Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, USA), and Diana Roman (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA), along with Cindy Werner and Christoph Kern from the USGS Volcano Emissions Project, are currently at sea as part of an earlier leg.

The expeditions, which are part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded GeoPRISMS (Geodynamic Processes at Rifting and Subducting Margins) program, will employ ship-based methods, on land exploration, and helicopter observation to investigate various geologic processes along the remote Aleutian Arc.

Fischer and Lopez will exploit helicopter time to make direct and remote measurements of volcanic degassing at five of the Western Aleutian Island volcanoes: Kiska, Little Sitkin, Semisopochnoi, Gareloi, and Kanaga; while Werner and Kern are collecting similar measurements at the Eastern Aleutian Volcanoes of Cleveland, Makushin, Akutan, Fisher and Shishaldin. Their measurements will address key questions about how much carbon is released into the atmosphere through volcanic activity from this remote volcanic arc, and is an important part of DCO’s DECADE (DEep CArbon DEgassing) initiative. This work will also provide samples for DCO’s Deep Life Community researchers to find links between volcanic gas compositions and organisms living in the extreme environments of volcanoes.

Cottrell will focus on the western Aleutian Islands of Buldir, Kiska, Segula, Little Sitkin, Gareloi, and Kanaga. The tephras they collect here will provide information about the volatile content of Earth’s mantle, as well as how Earth’s continents formed. DCO’s Katherine Kelley (University of Rhode Island, USA) is not onboard the cruise, but will work with Cottrell on retrieved samples.

Plank and Roman are looking at how water in Earth’s deep mantle affects volcanism at the surface. They will work on the volcanoes of the Unimak-Cleveland corridor of the eastern Aleutians which have a range of magma water content, magma storage depths, and depths of seismic activity. DCO’s Erik Hauri (Carnegie Institution of Washington), while not taking part in the expedition, is also heavily involved in this project as are other DCO researchers from the University of Palermo and INGV, Italy.

Image: Semisopochnoi in the Western Aleutian Islands. Credit: Roger Clifford. 

See also: Volcano farts: Scientists look to gas for beta on atmosphere, geothermal resource

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