There lies a hole at the Pacific Ocean’s bottom, and it has been steadily leaking liquid into the ocean. This hole is about 80 km off the Oregon coast, on the 965 km Cascadia Subduction Zone fault line that lies between northern California and Vancouver Island.
Credit: UW (University of Washington)/YouTube
Researchers are worrying that this hole could trigger a huge “megathrust” earthquake. This occurs when a tectonic plate moves below the other.
The researchers accidentally stumbled across the hole in the sea floor when they observed a stream of what appeared to be methane bubbles. In this region, methane seeps are common. To the researchers’ surprise, it wasn’t only methane. A liquid was gushing out of the seabed like a firehose.
The “water” from the hole has a different composition from that of seawater. It is 9˚C warmer compared to water around the hole and is also more like freshwater rather than saltwater. Oceanographer Evan Soloman said that it is something he has never seen, and to his knowledge, such a thing has not ever been observed before.
A stressful scenario
Liquid leaking into the biggest ocean in the world might not sound alarming. Still, this liquid — located about four kilometres below the seabed — serves as a lubricant and pressure regulator between the tectonic plates. As the spring continues leaking, it puts greater stress on the fault line.
Soloman explained that the megathrust fault zone is similar to an air hockey table. When the fluid pressure is significantly high, the air gets turned on, meaning there is less friction, and the two plates might slip. If the fluid pressure is lower, the two plates will lock. That is when stress can pile up.
This is the first time someone has discovered a seafloor leak of this nature. Seismologists are trying rapidly to learn more about the leak as well as its effects. They are scouting for further undetected seeps along the fault line.
Reference: India Times, Wion
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