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Public Lecture Series with Anthony Watts - "Mountains in the Sea"

The oceans make up 76% of Earth’s surface, yet we know little of the nature of the seafloor that lies beneath. This lecture will trace the history of seafloor exploration, from the 19th century, through World War II, to the present-day. Dr. Watts will show that mountains, the majority of which are volcanic in origin, litter the seafloor. He’ll use acoustic imagery to illustrate these mountains and the role they play as a recorder of tectonic plate movement and Earth’s magmatic pulse, then discussing their scientific and societal significance.

One of the mysteries of the sea are the large number of mountains (or “seamounts” as they are more commonly known) that rise up on the seabed and, in a few cases, break surface to form ocean islands. Volcanic in origin, seamounts are widely scattered throughout the world’s ocean basins, especially in the west-central Pacific. Recent estimates suggest there as many as 200,000 seamounts with heights that range from 0.1 to 6.7 km above the surrounding seafloor. Seamounts are generally circular in shape, have pointed, star-shaped, curved, or flat tops, and are often capped by a coral reef. Seamounts are of geological interest because they record the motions of Earth’s tectonic plates and the magmatic ‘pulse’ of its deep interior. They are also significant as ocean ‘stirring rods’, biodiversity ‘hotspots’, and hazards for megathrust earthquakes, submarine landslides, and navigation. Statistical studies suggest that there are as many as 24,000 seamounts higher than 1 km that still remain to be discovered. The charting of these seamounts and the determination of their summit depth, height and age and is one of a number of major challenges facing marine geoscientists in the future.

Tony Watts is Professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford in the UK. He received his BSc. in Geology and Physics from University College, London and his Ph.D in Marine Geophysics from the University of Durham. After graduating, he joined the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Canada and then the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University, New York, USA. He has participated in some 20 cruises of scientific research ships to each of the world’s ocean basins and has been involved in all aspects of the acquisition, reduction, and interpretation of marine geological and geophysical data. His current research is focused on the structure and evolution of the Brazilian and Namibian rifted continental margin, the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, and the Tonga-Kermadec island arc – deep-sea trench system. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the European Geophysical Union and The Royal Society.

Date: Monday, Dec. 3

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Presentation

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 E 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $10

Guest Ticket Price: $25

Student Ticket Price: $5 with valid student ID

Reservation Notes:

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