A Hole In The Bottom Of Ocean Pythia's Oasis-What is that?

This fault is located in the Pacific Northwest. The leak was initially discovered in 2015 and was named Pythias Oasis. Original observations of the leak at the bottom of the ocean suggested it was unlike any we’d discovered before, leaking almost-fresh water into the ocean.

However, a new paper featured in the journal Science Advances suggests that the liquid spewing up from the leak could actually be a type of tectonic lubricant. Further, the leaking of this liquid into the ocean could spell disaster for the Cascadia Subduction Zone fault.

When researchers first discovered the leak, it was nearly 16 degrees warmer than the water surrounding it. Based on new calculations, it’s believed the water seeping through the leak in the ocean could be coming from the Cascadia mega thrust, where temperatures are estimated to be 300 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why is this important? Well, loss of the fluid found in the offshore mega thrust could lower the fluid pressure that is found between the sediment particles, the researchers explain. This lowered pressure could then lead to friction between the oceanic and continental tectonic plates.

In simpler terms, it could cause the tectonic plates under the ocean and those under the continental United States to lock, creating stress that could eventually result in earthquakes. While this is the first detected leak in the ocean of its kind, researchers say others may exist, possibly even nearby.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is known for one of the largest earthquakes the world has ever experienced, which is why scientists are concerned about the leak and what it might mean for the mega thrust found in this area. Of course, it didn’t quite reach the same magnitude as the massive Chile earthquake from over 1,000 years ago, but it still probably caused terrifying amounts of damage.

The hope is that this leak could help teach us more about the operations of plate tectonics, a field of study that is still fairly new for researchers. But it is also a terrifying reminder of just how much we’re at the mercy of the moving plates beneath our feet, and the consequences of their movements.

"Loss of fluid from the offshore mega thrust interface through these strike-slip faults is important," the statement notes, "because it lowers the fluid pressure between the sediment particles and hence increases the friction between the oceanic and continental plates."

Using an interesting metaphor, Solomon said that the "mega thrust fault zone is like an air hockey table," and "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," he continued. "That’s when stress can build up."

According to the researchers, this is the first known seafloor leak of its kind, though others could exist nearby without having been detected yet.

All told, it's both a fascinating look into the operations of plate tectonics — which, the statement notes, is still a relatively new field of study — and a scary reminder of the kinds of natural disasters we may see in the future.

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