There Are Floating Pumice Islands In The Pacific Hundreds of Square Kilometres In Area

: MODIS satellite image of the Havre raft (pale yellow) and discoloured water (pale
blue). Swirls results from mixing by oceanic eddies. Image is filtered to enhance rafts. Maximum satellite resolution is 250m. Credit: Jutzele.

International researchers have developed a technique which may help predict the dispersal and drift patterns of large pumice rafts.

These chunks of volcanic rock float in the sea and can measure hundreds of square kilometres in area.

The ability to pre-empt where these rafts will end up could give enough advance warning for protective measures to be put in place on shipping routes or in harbours, where the presence of pumice is hazardous.

An eruption at certain underwater seamounts or volcanic island can generate a thick raft that may spread to affect a considerable area of the ocean, disrupting maritime industries for months or even years

Martin Jutzeler of the National Oceanography Centre in the UK and colleagues simulated the drift of a massive 400 km2 raft of pumice from Havre, a deep submarine volcano in the southwest Pacific, using a high-resolution model of global ocean circulation

They then tested the results against satellite imagery plus direct observations from sailing crews. They found they can accurately predict surface drift.

The results of the study are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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