A team of scientists has discovered a crack in the seabed, from which a strange hot liquid is escaping that could cause a devastating earthquake.
The leak is known as the Oasis of Pythia – the pythian oasis-, named after an oracle who foretold prophecies while sitting in a hot spring.
It is located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in the upper part of the fault of the Cascadia Subduction Zonean eerily silent marine fault line that stretches from Vancouver Island, off the west coast of Canada, to northern California (USA).
The Cascadia fault is a geological subduction fault, where the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate (the heaviest) slides under the North American tectonic plate (the lightest).
Illustrative image of the Juan de Fuca plate.
According to a group of scientists, led by the University of Washington (UW), Leak threatens to trigger a magnitude 9 earthquake in the Pacific Northwest.
How did they discover the leak?
Originally a ship’s sonar equipment RV Thomas G. Thompson, showed unexpected bubble plumes about 1.2 km below the ocean surface. Further exploration with an underwater robot revealed that the bubbles were a minor component of a warm, chemically distinct fluid that was bubbling up sediment on the seabed.
After further investigation, it was revealed that the flowing liquid contained extreme amounts of boron and lithiumbut significantly less chloride, potassium and magnesium.
“This is something that has never been observed before,” he said. Evan Solomonstudy co-author and associate professor of oceanography at the University of Washington.
Later observations revealed that the fluid emerging from the seafloor is 9°C warmer than the surrounding seawater. Calculations suggest the fluid comes directly from the Cascadia Megafault, where temperatures are estimated to be between 150°C and 250°C (300°F and 480°F).
Credit: University of Washington.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a large slip fault off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. This is where two of the tectonic plates that make up the earth’s crust meet and slide past each other. And the reserve of water that springs from the pythian oasis acts as a lubricant between these two plates.
portal information Phys.org indicates that the “source” is from water 3.2 km below the seafloor at the plate boundary.
Perspective view of bubble plumes rising above Pythia Oasis.
Is the liquid escaping from the seabed dangerous?
The liquid escaping from the hole could be some kind of tectonic lubricant, and without it, the painting on which it rests could risk movingnote the researchers.
This would have a significant impact on the friction between oceanic and continental plates by reducing fluid pressure between sediment particles; resulting in increased friction, which can cause stress to build up and lead to serious natural disasters.
Researchers liken the fault zone to an air hockey table; if the fluid pressure is high, the two plates can slide with less friction. However, if the fluid pressure is low, the two plates lock together and create tension.
The strange fluid emerging from the hole is 9°C warmer than the water surrounding it. Credit: UW.
According to the scientists, this leak on the seabed is the first of its kind, although they speculate that other leaks could exist nearby but have not yet been detected. The results are a crucial insight into plate tectonics, a relatively new field of study.
It could also offer information about the development of life on Earth.
The study was published in the journal Scientists progress.
The references: Scientific alert / Very interesting / Phys.
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