A leak “in” the ocean off the coast of Oregon may sound crazy, but that’s basically what this is. And it could increase the chance of “the big one” happening.
Deep underground chemicals are being released from a place scientists are calling Pythia’s Oasis. It’s about 50 miles offshore from Newport.
It’s also in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, an area known for earthquakes and tsunamis that runs from Vancouver Island all the way to Northern California. And it’s where scientists fear the next big one could come from.
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Researchers at the University Of Washington (UW) discovered the warm liquid leak. In an article published by the school, researchers say the fluid released from the fault zone is like a leaking lubricant. That isn’t good because less lubricant means stress and friction can build and create a damaging quake.
“The megathrust fault zone is like an air hockey table,” said Evan Solomon, a UW associate professor of oceanography who studies seafloor geology who co-authored the study. “If the fluid pressure is high, it’s like the air is turned on, meaning there’s less friction and the two plates can slip. If the fluid pressure is lower, the two plates will lock – that’s when stress can build up.”
UW says the discovery of Pythia’s Oasis was made after a ship’s sonar showed “unexpected plumes of bubbles about three-quarters of a mile beneath the ocean’s surface.”
Observations show the fluid is leaving the sea floor at 16 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding seawater. It’s believed the fluid is coming from the Cascadia megathrust, where temperatures are an estimated 300 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The good news is this spring of liquid could give researchers more insight into this unstable region.
You can read the full UW study here.