'Ring of Fire' that can swallow the Atlantic Ocean could rise if a sleeping subduction zone awakens

(Image credit: Mr. Elliot Lim, CIRES & NOAA/NCEI)

Flight Path

Scientists have found that a sleeping subduction zone near the Gibraltar Strait might wake up. This could create a new geological feature similar to the 'Ring of Fire' in the Pacific Ocean.

The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, separating Spain and Gibraltar from the northern coast of Africa (Morocco).

It is approx 13 kms wide at its narrowest point. The strait is of great importance due to its location at the entrance to the Mediterranean, making it a crucial shipping route between Europe & Africa.

The Gibraltar arc, where this subduction zone is, has been moving slowly towards the west for millions of years. Even though it seemed quiet lately, new evidence suggests it might become active again.

Experts think the Gibraltar arc might move even further west and eventually reach the Atlantic Ocean. This process is called "subduction invasion." It could change the ocean over millions of years.

To understand this, scientists used computer models to study how the Gibraltar arc has changed over time. These models help predict what might happen in the future.

If the Gibraltar arc reaches the Atlantic, it could form a new subduction system like the 'Ring of Fire'. This means ocean crust would sink into the Earth's mantle, changing the ocean's slowly.

The lack of earthquakes and volcanoes around the Gibraltar arc might be because it has been quiet for a long time. If it starts moving again, it could cause more seismic activity.

In the coming millions of years, the Gibraltar arc is expected to keep moving westward, changing the region's geology.

These advanced studies help us understand how the Earth changes over time. They give us important information about how our planet works in the long run.

Did You Know?

A group of researchers in Japan discovered the world’s largest volcanic eruption happened underwater about 7300 years ago.