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Leak on Pacific Ocean Floor Closer to Oregon May Lead to 9.0 Earthquake: Report

A liquid seen seeping up from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, located about 80 kilometres off the coast of Oregon in the United States, has caused ‘concern’. This occurrence has the potential to trigger a “major” earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Michigan Tech University Earthquake Magnitude Scale. A study conducted by the University of Washington has shed light on the Pacific Northwest, suggesting the possibility of a massive earthquake in the region.

According to findings published in the journal Science Advances, the leak originates about four kilometres below the sea floor in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. This subduction zone, known for its earthquake propensity, is also in close proximity to the Canadian coast.

What is this liquid, and where exactly is it located?

According to the Science Advances article, the fluid coming out of the leak is a “tectonic lubricant” and was found to be about 9 degrees warmer than the surrounding ocean water. The leak is located in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which serves as the boundary between two huge tectonic plates: the relatively smaller coastal “Juan de Fuca Plate” and the significantly larger “North American Plate.” This is in the region from northern California to Vancouver Island.

How was it discovered?

In 2015, a team from the University of Washington discovered a leak located on top of the 966 km-long Cascadia subduction zone, where the ship’s sonar detected “unexpected” bubbles below the ocean surface. Subsequently, an underwater robot revealed that the fluid was a “chemically distinct fluid” that was later identified as a tectonic fluid.

Why can leakage be dangerous?

The presence of fluid discovered off the coast of the Cascadia megathrust plays a critical role in maintaining fluid pressure between sediment particles. The researchers suggest that the loss of this fluid could reduce the pressure, leading to increased friction between the oceanic and continental tectonic plates.

This means that it could cause the plates under the ocean and the plates under the continental United States to lock, creating stress that could eventually trigger a 9.0 earthquake. Such an earthquake occurring on the ocean floor can generate a significant tsunami that poses a serious threat to nearby coastal communities. Although this is the first known occurrence of such a leak in the ocean, scientists believe there could be others, potentially in close proximity.

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