User:Atcovi/3rd Book/The Ocean Floor
The Ocean Floor
In this presentation, you will learn about the Ocean Floor, it's properties and benefits.
- Continental Shelf - The width of the continental shelf varies considerably – it is not uncommon for an area to have virtually no shelf at all, particularly where the forward edge of an advancing oceanic plate dives beneath continental crust in an offshore subduction zone such as off the coast of Chile or the west coast of Sumatra. The largest shelf – the Siberian Shelf in the Arctic Ocean – stretches to 1,500 kilometers (930 mi) in width. The South China Sea lies over another extensive area of continental shelf, the Sunda Shelf, which joins Borneo, Sumatra, and Java to the Asian mainland. Other familiar bodies of water that overlie continental shelves are the North Sea and the Persian Gulf. The average width of continental shelves is about 80 km (50 mi). The depth of the shelf also varies, but is generally limited to water shallower than 150 m (490 ft). The slope of the shelf is usually quite low, on the order of 0.5°; vertical relief is also minimal, at less than 20 m (66 ft).
Though the continental shelf is treated as a physiographic province of the ocean, it is not part of the deep ocean basin proper, but the flooded margins of the continent. Passive continental margins such as most of the Atlantic coasts have wide and shallow shelves, made of thick sedimentary wedges derived from long erosion of a neighboring continent. Active continental margins have narrow, relatively steep shelves, due to frequent earthquakes that move sediment to the deep sea.
- Continental Slope - The continental margin is the zone of the ocean floor that separates the thin oceanic crust from thick continental crust. Together, the continental shelf, continental slope, and continental rise are called continental margin. Continental margins constitute about 28% of the oceanic area.
The transition from continental to oceanic crust commonly occurs within the outer part of the margin, called continental rise. Oceanwards beyond the edge of the rise lies the abyssal plain. The underwater part of the continental crust is called continental shelf, which usually abruptly terminates with the continental slope, which in turn terminates with the foot of the slope. The under-ocean part constitutes about 20% of the continental crust.
The edge of the continental margin is one criterion for the boundary of the internationally recognized claims to underwater resources by countries in the definition of the "Continental Shelf" by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (although in the UN definition the "legal continental shelf" may extend beyond the geomorphological continental shelf and vice versa).
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common on the west coast of North America, but there are no active volcanoes on the east coast and large magnitude earthquakes are rare. Geologists refer to the west coast as a (tectonically) active continental margin and the east coast a passive continental margin. These differences can be found on several continents. Most passive continental margins have broad continental shelves, whereas active continental margins typically have narrow continental shelves. In addition, active continental margins are near plate boundaries whereas passive continental margins are further away from an active plate boundary.
- Continental Rise - A smooth-surfaced accumulation of sediment which forms at the base of the continental slope. The surface of the rise is gently sloping with gradients between 1:100 and 1:700. The width of the rise varies but is often several hundred kilometres. Two types of deposit lead to the formation of rises: turbidites laid down by turbidity currents flowing down the continental slope; and contourites laid down by contour currents flowing along the rise at the base of the continental margin.
- Abyssal Plain - An abyssal plain is an underwater plain on the deep ocean floor, usually found at depths between 3000 and 6000 m. Lying generally between the foot of a continental rise and a mid-ocean ridge, abyssal plains cover more than 50% of the Earth’s surface. They are among the flattest, smoothest and least explored regions on Earth. Abyssal plains are key geologic elements of oceanic basins (the other elements being an elevated mid-ocean ridge and flanking abyssal hills). In addition to these elements, active oceanic basins (those that are associated with a moving plate tectonic boundary) also typically include an oceanic trench and a subduction zone.
Abyssal plains were not recognized as distinct physiographic features of the sea floor until the late 1940s and, until very recently, none had been studied on a systematic basis. They are poorly preserved in the sedimentary record, because they tend to be consumed by the subduction process. The creation of the abyssal plain is the end result of spreading of the seafloor (plate tectonics) and melting of the lower oceanic crust. Magma rises from above the asthenosphere (a layer of the upper mantle) and as this basaltic material reaches the surface at mid-ocean ridges it forms new oceanic crust. This is constantly pulled sideways by spreading of the seafloor. Abyssal plains result from the blanketing of an originally uneven surface of oceanic crust by fine-grained sediments, mainly clay and silt. Much of this sediment is deposited by turbidity currents that have been channelled from the continental margins along submarine canyons down into deeper water. The remainder of the sediment is composed chiefly of pelagic sediments. Metallic nodules are common in some areas of the plains, with varying concentrations of metals, including manganese, iron, nickel, cobalt and copper. These nodules may provide a significant resource for future mining ventures.
Owing in part to their vast size, abyssal plains are currently believed to be a major reservoir of biodiversity. The abyss also exerts significant influence upon ocean carbon cycling, dissolution of calcium carbonate and atmospheric CO2 concentrations over timescales of 100–1000 years. The structure and function of abyssal ecosystems are strongly influenced by the rate of flux of food to the seafloor and the composition of the material that settles. Factors such as climate change, fishing practices and ocean fertilization are expected to have a substantial effect on patterns of primary production in the euphotic zone. This will undoubtedly impact the flux of organic material to the abyss in a similar manner and thus have a profound effect on the structure, function and diversity of abyssal ecosystems.
- Mid Ocean Ridge - A mid-ocean ridge is a general term for an underwater mountain system that consists of various mountain ranges (chains), typically having a valley known as a rift running along its spine, formed by plate tectonics. This type of oceanic ridge is characteristic of what is known as an oceanic spreading center, which is responsible for seafloor spreading. The uplifted seafloor results from convection currents which rise in the mantle as magma at a linear weakness in the oceanic crust, and emerge as lava, creating new crust upon cooling. A mid-ocean ridge demarcates the boundary between two tectonic plates, and consequently is termed a divergent plate boundary.
The mid-ocean ridges of the world are connected and form a single global mid-oceanic ridge system that is part of every ocean, making the mid-oceanic ridge system the longest mountain range in the world. The continuous mountain range is 65,000 km (40,400 mi) long (several times longer than the Andes, the longest continental mountain range), and the total length of the oceanic ridge system is 80,000 km (49,700 mi) long.
- Seamounts - A seamount is a mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach to the water's surface (sea level), and thus is not an island. These are typically formed from extinct volcanoes that rise abruptly and are usually found rising from the seafloor to 1,000–4,000 metres (3,300–13,000 ft) in height. They are defined by oceanographers as independent features that rise to at least 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) above the seafloor. The peaks are often found hundreds to thousands of meters below the surface, and are therefore considered to be within the deep sea. There are an estimated 100,000 seamounts across the globe, with only a few having been studied. Seamounts come in all shapes and sizes, and follow a distinctive pattern of growth, activity, and death. In recent years, several active seamounts have been observed, for example Loihi in the Hawaiian Islands.
Because of their abundance, seamounts are one of the most common oceanic ecosystems in the world. Interactions between seamounts and underwater currents, as well as their elevated position in the water, attract plankton, corals, fish, and marine mammals alike. Their aggregational effect has been noted by the commercial fishing industry, and many seamounts support extensive fisheries. There are ongoing concerns on the negative impact of fishing on seamount ecosystems, and well-documented cases of stock decline, for example with the orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus). 95% of ecological damage is done by bottom trawling, which literally scrapes whole ecosystems off seamounts.
Because of their large numbers, many seamounts remain to be properly studied, and even mapped. Bathymetry and satellite altimetry are two technologies working to close the gap. There have been instances where naval vessels have collided with uncharted seamounts; for example, Muirfield Seamount is named after the ship that struck it in 1973. However, the greatest danger from seamounts are flank collapses; as they get older, extrusions seeping in the seamounts put pressure on their sides, causing landslides that have the potential to generate massive tsunamis.
- Trench (Note: Since we didn't get a lot of information on the Trench, here is an example of a trench) - The Mariana Trench or Marianas Trench is the deepest part of the world's oceans. It is located in the western Pacific Ocean, to the east of the Mariana Islands. The trench is about 2,550 kilometres (1,580 mi) long but has an average width of only 69 kilometres (43 mi). It reaches a maximum-known depth of 10.911 km (10,911 ± 40 m) or 6.831 mi (36,069 ± 131 ft) at the Challenger Deep, a small slot-shaped valley in its floor, at its southern end, although some unrepeated measurements place the deepest portion at 11.03 kilometres (6.85 mi).
At the bottom of the trench the water column above exerts a pressure of 1,086 bars (15,750 psi), over 1000 times the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level. At this pressure the density of water is increased by 4.96%, making 95 litres of water under the pressure of the Challenger Deep contain the same mass as 100 litres at the surface. The temperature at the bottom is 1 to 4 °C.
The trench is not the part of the seafloor closest to the center of the Earth. This is because the Earth is not a perfect sphere: its radius is about 25 kilometres (16 mi) less at the poles than at the equator. As a result, parts of the Arctic Ocean seabed are at least 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) closer to the Earth's center than the Challenger Deep seafloor.
Xenophyophores have been found in the trench by Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers at a record depth of 10.6 km (6.6 mi) below the sea surface. On 17 March 2013, researchers reported data that suggested microbial life forms thrive in the Mariana Trench. Other researchers reported related studies that microbes thrive inside rocks up to 1900 feet below the sea floor under 8500 feet of ocean off the coast of the northwestern United States. According to one of the researchers,"You can find microbes everywhere — they're extremely adaptable to conditions, and survive wherever they are