The Creation of a New Deep-Sea Feature

A mysterious plume, possibly a stream of ice-covered methane bubbles (inset arrow), rises about 1.4 kilometers from the seafloor off the coast of California. The plume originates in a previously unknown, amphitheater-shaped scar (main image, arrow) on the ocean bottom about 32 kilometers northwest of California’s Cape Mendocino.

A mysterious plume, possibly a stream of ice-covered methane bubbles (inset arrow), rises about 1.4 kilometers from the seafloor off the coast of California. The plume originates in a previously unknown, amphitheater-shaped scar (main image, arrow) on the ocean bottom about 32 kilometers northwest of California’s Cape Mendocino.

A recent oceanographic survey on the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer led by James V. Gardner, a marine geologist at the University of New Hampshire, discovered a 1400 meter tall plume (4.3 Eiffel Towers) rising from the seafloor off California.  The plume may have originated with a recent massive landslide that created the 3.6km “amphitheater-shaped” scar.

Water samples above the plume did not have high mineral contents, suggesting the feature is not a hydrothermal vent.  Gardner reports his teams findings in Eos, a weekly newspaper from the American Geophysical Union for members (can someone send this to me?).  The team thinks the plume is a methane gas bubbles coated in a veneer of methane hydrate ice, that quickly dissolve in warmer lower pressure water.

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Dr. M (1755 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


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