Most new ocean floor is made when undersea volcanic activity splits the crust and molten rock fills the gaps. However some new ocean floor develops when rock stretches along gently inclined tectonic faults called detachment faults.
The new research suggests the significance of this stretching process as a way of creating new sea floor has been underestimated. No active examples of these detachment faults had been seen - until now.
Co-author Prof Joe Cann, from the University of Leeds said: “Detachment faults appear to break one of the most fundamental rules of geology. After all of the theorising about them, trying to explain how they might exist, it is immensely exciting to discover active faults emerging from the sea floor.”
Detachment faults are characterised by their curved surfaces, like corrugated iron roofs, and by swarms of tiny earthquakes. Because the distinctive shape of the faults as they emerge, it was possible to show that along 80 kilometres of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge all of the new crust along one side was being formed through a chain of linked detachment faults each at a different stage of evolution, which was highly unexpected. After a while, each fault becomes inactive, and is replaced by a newly-emerging fault.
Co-author Deborah Smith, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said: “In our area, detachment faulting is the most important way in which new ocean floor is constructed. The initial signs are that detachment faulting is far commoner along many hundreds of kilometres of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge than anyone had supposed before. These observations shed a new light on the evolution of the ocean floor.”
About 3 square kilometres of new ocean floor is created around the world every year. With sea floor comprising two thirds of the Earth’s crust, this new work is invaluable in helping us understand how the Earth’s surface is formed.
Widespread active detachment faulting and core complex formation near 13 degrees N on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge by Deborah Smith of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA, Johnson Cann of the University of Leeds, UK and Javier Escartin of Marine Geosciences Group, France, was published yesterday (27 July) in Nature.
Vanessa Bridge | alfa
Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents
12.12.2017 | Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine
13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
13.12.2017 | Life Sciences