Scientists have discovered a new way in which ocean water circulates through deep-sea vents.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Zina Deretsky/National Science Foundation
Earthquakes Under Pacific Ocean Floor Reveal Surprising Flow of Water
News story originally written on January 11, 2008
A group of scientists have been studying an area of the ocean floor called the East Pacific Rise, which is about 565 miles southwest of Acapulco, Mexico. The East Pacific Rise is a ridge along the ocean floor where the sea floor is spreading.
These scientists have learned that tiny earthquakes along this ridge are being created when the cold ocean water passes through hot rocks and picks up their heat. This process shrinks the rocks and cracks them, creating small earthquakes. Then the seawater is forced down into the new spaces made by the earthquakes. This water gets heated by the hot magma and rises back to the seafloor and bubbles through vents in the sea floor back up into the ocean. Maya Tolstoy, a geologist studying this area, says this process is very similar to what happens in a pot of boiling water.
This is a very large system, and the scientists think a billion gallons of water flow through it each year! When the water rises back up into the ocean through the seafloor, it brings up minerals that were dissolved in the hot water below. Some rare animals feed off this "stew" of minerals and hot water, and scientists have been studying these vents to see how some animals can live in such a harsh environment!
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, ranging from evolution
, classroom research
, and the need for science and math literacy
You might also be interested in:
As the Earth cools, hot material from the deep interior rises to the surface. Hot material is red in this drawing, under an ocean shown in blue green. The hotter material raises the nearby layers, and...more
Pretend that you are an explorer traveling to the center of the Earth. You would find that the deeper you travel, the hotter it gets! Beneath the crust, in the mantle layer, it is hot enough that rock...more
Minerals are the building blocks of rocks. There are many different types of minerals. All of them are solid and all are made of atoms of elements. Minerals can grow even though they are not alive. Most...more
Some animals can live without light or oxygen. Some can live in very cold places or very hot ones. Some live underwater, while others live on land. All animals are different and need different things...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University, says this...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core. The mantle is made up of many different reservoirs that have different chemical compositions. Scientists...more
Some faults look strong and like they wouldn’t cause an earthquake. But it turns out that they can slip and slide like weak faults causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults...more