Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Underwater Sand Avalanches Linked To Sea-Level Changes In Gulf Of Mexico

Date:
July 20, 2005
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
New evidence has been found linking underwater catastrophic sand avalanches to rapid sea-level changes in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, according to marine geologists affiliated with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). By analyzing sediment cores, IODP scientists are reconstructing the history of a sea-floor area formed approximately 20,000 years ago, when sea level fell so low the Texas shoreline shifted almost 100 miles to the south. The data are important to reconstructing climate change history and gathering insights into the development and placement of natural resources.

The drillship JOIDES Resolution at the dock in Mobile, Ala.
Credit: International Ocean Drilling Program

New evidence has been found linking underwater catastrophic sand avalanches to rapid sea-level changes in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, according to marine geologists affiliated with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP).

Related Articles


By analyzing sediment cores, IODP scientists are reconstructing the history of a sea-floor area formed approximately 20,000 years ago, when sea level fell so low the Texas shoreline shifted almost 100 miles to the south. The data are important to reconstructing climate change history and gathering insights into the development and placement of natural resources.

"These new results will help scientists better understand the processes that occur with shifts in sea level," said Rodey Batiza, program director in NSF's division of ocean sciences, which supports IODP. "What is preserved in ancient ocean sediments can shed light on sea-floor processes going on today."

IODP is an international marine-research drilling program that advances scientific understanding of the Earth by monitoring and sampling sub-sea floor environments. With multiple platforms, IODP scientists explore the deep biosphere, environmental change, and solid-earth cycles.

Expedition scientists are studying areas known as basins, which "are the ultimate repositories for sediments transported by the Brazos and Trinity Rivers [that empty into the Gulf of Mexico]," said Peter Flemings of Pennsylvania State University. "Over the past 120,000 years, the basins accumulated enough sand and mud to cover the entire city of Houston with a layer 20 feet thick."

During the last glacial period when more of Earth's water was locked up in glaciers and sea level was lower, sediments discharged by rivers such as the Brazos and Trinity formed beaches and deltas near the continental shelf's edge. Catastrophic underwater sand avalanches, called turbidity currents, carried the sediments into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where they accumulated in bowl-shaped basins.

Carlos Pirmez, an expedition geologist affiliated with Shell International in Houston, said, "basins are now buried thousands of meters beneath the Gulf of Mexico sea floor, and likely host billions of barrels of oil and gas. Sediment records we acquire from the basin off Texas shores will boost our understanding of how these deeply buried reservoirs are formed."

Expedition scientists plan to obtain detailed measurements of changes in sediment and fluid properties to enable prediction of turbidity currents, which can carry large amounts of sand and mud in suspension, sometimes for hundreds of miles, at speeds up to 70 miles per hour near the seabed.

Jan Behrmann, a scientist at Germany's University of Freiburg, emphasizes that, "The goal of this expedition was not to explore or drill for oil, which lies much deeper than the sediments we recovered. In the next several months, we will analyze sediment samples and gain an understanding of when and how turbidites form. We will then have a better picture of why and where these important [petroleum] deposits are formed."

The expedition, which concludes July 10, is taking place aboard the JOIDES Resolution, a riserless drillship operated for IODP by the JOI Alliance: the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Texas A & M University, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

IODP's initial 10-year, $1.5 billion science plan is primarily supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. Other support comes from the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling and the People's Republic of China Ministry of Science and Technology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Underwater Sand Avalanches Linked To Sea-Level Changes In Gulf Of Mexico." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 July 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050718234804.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2005, July 20). Underwater Sand Avalanches Linked To Sea-Level Changes In Gulf Of Mexico. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050718234804.htm
National Science Foundation. "Underwater Sand Avalanches Linked To Sea-Level Changes In Gulf Of Mexico." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050718234804.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) A scuba diving Santa Claus explored the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dive shop owner Spencer Slate makes the dive each year to help raise money for charity. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins