The study found that submarine volcanoes flare up on strikingly regular cycles, ranging from two weeks to 100,000 years and that they erupt almost exclusively during the first six months of each year. Previously, scientists presumed underwater volcanoes are Earth's gentle giants, oozing lava at slow, steady rates, but the new study said they produce maybe eight times more lava annually than land volcanoes.

Due to the chemistry of their magmas, the carbon dioxide they emit is currently at about 88 million tonnes a year, the same as, or perhaps a little less than, from land volcanoes, said study author Maya Tolstoy of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in the US.

If underwater volcanoes were a little bit more active, their carbon dioxide output would shoot up, Tolstoy said.The findings suggested that models of earth's natural climate dynamics and human-influenced climate change may have to be adjusted.   

"People have ignored seafloor volcanoes on the idea that their influence is small - but that's because they are assumed to be in a steady state, which they're not," said Tolstoy."They respond to both very large forces, and to very small ones, and that tells us that we need to look at them much more closely."

The study was published in the US journal Geophysical Research Letters on Friday.


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