The Creation of a New Deep-Sea Feature

A mysterious plume, possibly a stream of ice-covered methane bubbles (inset arrow), rises about 1.4 kilometers from the seafloor off the coast of California. The plume originates in a previously unknown, amphitheater-shaped scar (main image, arrow) on the ocean bottom about 32 kilometers northwest of California’s Cape Mendocino.

A mysterious plume, possibly a stream of ice-covered methane bubbles (inset arrow), rises about 1.4 kilometers from the seafloor off the coast of California. The plume originates in a previously unknown, amphitheater-shaped scar (main image, arrow) on the ocean bottom about 32 kilometers northwest of California’s Cape Mendocino.

A recent oceanographic survey on the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer led by James V. Gardner, a marine geologist at the University of New Hampshire, discovered a 1400 meter tall plume (4.3 Eiffel Towers) rising from the seafloor off California.  The plume may have originated with a recent massive landslide that created the 3.6km “amphitheater-shaped” scar.

Water samples above the plume did not have high mineral contents, suggesting the feature is not a hydrothermal vent.  Gardner reports his teams findings in Eos, a weekly newspaper from the American Geophysical Union for members (can someone send this to me?).  The team thinks the plume is a methane gas bubbles coated in a veneer of methane hydrate ice, that quickly dissolve in warmer lower pressure water.

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Dr. M (1625 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





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