Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists lose instruments, gain first look at seafloor formation

28.11.2006
Ordinarily, losing almost all of one's instruments would be considered a severe setback to any scientist. But when Maya Tolstoy, a marine geophysicist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, recently learned that two-thirds of the seismometers she placed on the floor of the Pacific Ocean were trapped more than 8,000 feet (2500 meters) underwater, it turned out to be an extremely good sign.

Tolstoy and Lamont-Doherty colleague Felix Waldhauser set an array of ocean bottom seismometers along a section of the East Pacific Rise off the coast of Mexico in 2003 to study the little-understood process of seafloor spreading--a process that is responsible for the formation of nearly three-quarters of the Earth's crust. When a team went back in April 2006 to retrieve the instruments, however, only four out of 12 responded to the coded release signal and bobbed to the surface; three more responded to the signal, but did not come up. The rest remained silent.

Tests of the water temperature and light-scattering near the sea floor revealed signs of a recent volcanic eruption. A second expedition led by James Cowen of the University of Hawaii on the research vessel R/V New Horizon in early May lowered a camera that confirmed what the scientists suspected: Their instruments had been directly on top of a section of the East Pacific Rise that erupted and were trapped in fresh lava flows.

Instead of bemoaning their fate, the group celebrated their fortune--no one has ever closely recorded the series of micro-earthquakes associated with the formation of new seafloor. Preliminary analysis of their data appears in an upcoming issue of the journal Science and will be released on the Science Express Web site November 23.

"It's amazing that we know so little about something so fundamental to the planet," said Tolstoy. "Even if we don't get the rest of the instruments back we'll have learned quite a bit."

The East Pacific Rise is one of three active seafloor spreading centers targeted by the National Science Foundation's Ridge 2000 program to document the process of crustal formation as it is happening. Ridge 2000 was formed in 2001 as an interdisciplinary effort to study the geology, chemistry and biology of the poorly understood process by which the Earth's crust is formed.

"Discovering new lava so soon after a seafloor eruption is a unique opportunity," said Donna Blackman, current chair of the Ridge 2000 program. "It allows Ridge researchers a rare chance to see how geologic processes affect the deep-sea ecosystems that thrive near hydrothermal vents."

The first underwater eruption was not documented until 1990, even though many probably occur each year, and seismometers on land still cannot detect the many small, distant earthquakes that scientists believe precede a submarine eruption for many months. By comparison, earthquakes often occur only a few days or hours before a land-based volcanic eruption.

Tolstoy found that seismic activity at the site gradually built up for at least two years leading up to the brief, January 2006 eruption that entombed her instruments, raising the possibility that future eruptions may be forecast a year or more in advance.

"Our success emphasizes the importance of real-time monitoring on the seafloor so that next time we'll be collecting many different types of data the moment an eruption starts," said Tolstoy. "That way we can really begin to understand this fundamental building block of our planet, from the mantle to the microbe.

Ken Kostel | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.earth.columbia.edu
http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Sediment from Himalayas may have made 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake more severe
26.05.2017 | Oregon State University

nachricht Devils Hole: Ancient Traces of Climate History
24.05.2017 | Universität Innsbruck

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>