Scientists make discoveries about the ways oceans form

Mar 16, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at Missouri University of Science and Technology have discovered magnetic stripes in Ethiopia that could indicate the coming formation of a new ocean basin in the next two million years or so. The findings are reported in the March issue of the journal Geology.

This is the first time these magnetic stripes have been discovered on land. They are known to exist on the bottom of oceans, and are involved in the "flipping" of the Earth's -- which last happened 780,000 years ago. Scientists can learn the timing of ocean formation from the .

"The really interesting thing is that some of the oceanic basins may perhaps be a little bit younger than we currently believe," David Bridges, a post-doctoral researcher at Missouri S&T, told OurAmazingPlanet.

The researchers set out to study how narrow rifts have separated continents in the past to create ocean basins like the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea. Current rift valleys are found in Africa, Russia and in the southwestern U.S. The U.S. rift is located along the Rio Grande River.

"If the current trend continues for millions of years, there will be an separating western and eastern Colorado, western and eastern New Mexico, and western Texas and northern Mexico," says Dr. Stephen Gao, professor of geophysics at Missouri S&T.

However, Gao says there have been a lot of failed rifts in the Earth's history. One so-called failed rift is the Reelfoot in southeast Missouri, where the New Madrid seismic zone is now located.

In Africa, 50 earthquake-detecting instruments called seismographs are being installed across the rifted valleys to image the deep structure of the . The techniques are similar to the methods doctors use to image the body.

In addition to Bridges and Gao, other researchers involved include Dr. Mohamed Abdelsalam, professor of geology; Dr. John Hogan, associate professor of ; and Dr. Kelly Liu, professor of geophysics.

The research has been funded by multiple awards from the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society and Statoil.

"The latest discovery was a milestone in S&T's long-history of geophysical investigations of the forces that fracture continents and form new oceans," Gao says.

Explore further: Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Formation of the Gulf of Corinth rift, Greece

Dec 22, 2009

A study of the structure and evolution of the Gulf of Corinth rift in central Greece will increase scientific understanding of rifted margin development and the tectonic mechanisms underlying seafloor spreading ...

New insights into volcanic activity on the ocean floor

Jun 16, 2010

New research reveals that when two parts of the Earth's crust break apart, this does not always cause massive volcanic eruptions. The study, published today in the journal Nature, explains why some parts ...

Recommended for you

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

Apr 18, 2014

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...