Navigation Links
Ocean floor geysers warm flowing sea water

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.

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."


Contact: Paul Francuch
University of Illinois at Chicago

Related biology news :

1. TAU scientists probe deep questions aboard EcoOceans environmental research ship
2. NASA celebrates a decade observing climate impacts on health of worlds oceans
3. CO2 emissions could violate EPA ocean-quality standards within decades
4. NASA celebrates a decade observing climate impacts on health of worlds oceans
5. Scientists, policymakers and industry leaders gather to discuss ocean iron fertilization
6. Acid oceans warning
7. Scientists gather in New Zealand to share oceans secrets
8. Unprecedented global measurement network achieves full coverage of oceans
9. Abel to receive posthumous Ocean and Coastal Leadership award
10. Human safety, prosperity depend on better ocean observing system: Scientists
11. Marine scientists warn human safety, prosperity depend on better ocean observing system
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/20/2015)... Connecticut , November 20, 2015 ... authentication company focused on the growing mobile commerce market ... CEO, Gino Pereira , was recently interviewed on ... interview will air on this weekend on Bloomberg ... Latin America . --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... 2015  Based on its in-depth analysis of the ... with the 2015 Global Frost & Sullivan Award for ... presents this award to the company that has developed ... of the market it serves. The award recognizes the ... on customer base demands, the overall impact it has ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... 19, 2015  Although some 350 companies are actively ... a few companies, according to Kalorama Information. These include Roche ... the market share of the 6.1 billion-dollar molecular testing ... Market for Molecular Diagnostic s .    ... still controlled by one company and only a handful ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Asia-Pacific (APAC) holds ... organisation (CRO) market. The trend of outsourcing to ... margins but higher volume share for the region ... scale, however, margins in the CRO industry will ... Market ( ), finds that the ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced Dr. Bruce ... Presented annually since 1961, the USGA Green Section Award recognizes an individual’s distinguished service ... , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an extension specialist of turfgrass pathology in the ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... SUNNYVALE, Calif. , Nov. 24, 2015 ... executives will be speaking at the following conference, and ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, ...      Piper Jaffray Healthcare Conference, New York, NY ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: HALO ) ... New York on Wednesday, December 2 at 9:30 ... president and CEO, will provide a corporate overview. th ... at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT . Jim ... provide a corporate overview. --> th Annual Oppenheimer ...
Breaking Biology Technology: