Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ocean Floor Geysers Warm Flowing Sea Water

Date:
September 25, 2008
Source:
University of Illinois at Chicago
Summary:
Earth scientists have reported movement of warmed sea water through the flat, Pacific Ocean floor off Costa Rica. The movement is greater than that off midocean volcanic ridges. The finding suggests possible marine life in a part of the ocean once considered barren.

An international team of earth scientists report movement of warmed sea water through the flat, Pacific Ocean floor off Costa Rica. The movement is greater than that off midocean volcanic ridges. The finding suggests possible marine life in a part of the ocean once considered barren.

Related Articles


With about 71 percent of the Earth's surface being ocean, much remains unknown about what is under the sea, its geology, and the life it supports. A new finding reported by American, Canadian and German earth scientists suggests a rather unremarkable area off the Costa Rican Pacific coast holds clues to better understand sea floor ecosystems.

Carol Stein, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a member of the research team that has studied the region, located between 50 and 150 miles offshore and covering an area the size of Connecticut. The sea floor, some two miles below, is marked by a collection of about 10 widely separated outcrops or mounts, rising from sediment covering crust made of extinct volcanic rock some 20-25 million years old.

Stein and her colleagues found that seawater on this cold ocean floor is flowing through cracks and crevices faster and in greater quantity than what is typically found at mid-ocean ridges formed by rising lava. Water temperatures, while not as hot as by the ridge lava outcrops, are surprisingly warm as well.

Finding so much movement in a bland area of the ocean was surprising.

"It's like finding Old Faithful in Illinois," said Stein. "When we went out to try to get a feel for how much heat was coming from the ocean floor and how much sea water might be moving through it, we found that there was much more heat than we expected at the outcrops."

The water gushing from sea floor protrusions warms as it moves through the insulated volcanic rock and picks up heat.

"It's relatively warm and may have some of the nutrients needed to support some of the life forms we see on the sea floor," said Stein. Her best guess as to why the water flows so rapidly is that it accelerates off nearby sea mounts and follows a well-connected network of cracks beneath the sea floor.

The earth scientists dropped probes from ships down to the pitch-dark ocean floor to collect temperature and heat-flow data to form images of what is happening in this area of the ocean, with water flowing down into rock, heating up and remixing below the floor sediment, and then escaping above the sea floor.

Only in recent decades have earth scientists discovered such life forms as bacteria, clams and tubeworm species living near the hot water discharges along the mid-ocean volcanic ridges. The rather flat undersea areas which Stein and her colleagues studied were thought to be lifeless, but the nutrient-enhanced warm water flows they discovered suggests this area too may be capable of supporting life.

"The sea floor may not be quite as much of a desert even as we thought maybe 20 or 10 years ago, but rather there may be a lot of locations similar to this well-studied area in terms of the water flow where there's a lot more biological activity," she said.

The earth scientists hope to do follow-up studies to add details to their findings, and see if they can find other regions comparable to the one off Costa Rica.

"We're only beginning to really understand the interplay of the water flow and the nature of the ecosystem on the sea floor," said Stein. "I think as we move away from the ridge crests, understand what's going in the overall ocean, we'll have a better understanding of how life is distributed and affects the oceans and our planet."

The findings were reported in a letter printed in Nature Geoscience's September 2008 issue. Other key authors of the letter include Andrew Fisher of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Robert Harris of Oregon State University. The lead author is Michael Hutnak, now with the U.S. Geological Survey.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Chicago. "Ocean Floor Geysers Warm Flowing Sea Water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080922155904.htm>.
University of Illinois at Chicago. (2008, September 25). Ocean Floor Geysers Warm Flowing Sea Water. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080922155904.htm
University of Illinois at Chicago. "Ocean Floor Geysers Warm Flowing Sea Water." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080922155904.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

You Won't Be Driving Tesla's Mystery Product

You Won't Be Driving Tesla's Mystery Product

Newsy (Mar. 30, 2015) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a new product line will debut April 30, but it&apos;s not a car. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Impulse Departs Myanmar for China

Solar Impulse Departs Myanmar for China

AFP (Mar. 30, 2015) — Solar Impulse 2 takes off from Myanmar&apos;s second biggest city of Mandalay and heads for China&apos;s Chongqing, the fifth flight of a landmark journey to circumnavigate the globe powered solely by the sun. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Colombian Project Transforms Old Tires Into Green Housing

Colombian Project Transforms Old Tires Into Green Housing

AFP (Mar. 30, 2015) — To put a roof over their heads and help the environment, residents near Bogota are building houses out of recycled bottles and old tires. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Future Of Japanese Whaling: Heritage Vs. Conservation

The Future Of Japanese Whaling: Heritage Vs. Conservation

Newsy (Mar. 30, 2015) — In 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled Japan could no longer engage in whaling in the Antarctic, but Japan has plans to return this year. Video provided by Newsy
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