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Study Says New Ring of Fire May Swallow the Atlantic Ocean

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Study Says New Ring of Fire May Swallow the Atlantic Ocean
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Study Says New Ring of Fire May Swallow the Atlantic Ocean

Source; CNN10/YouTube

A surprising new study has shown that a potential geological phenomenon, nicknamed the “New Ring of Fire,” might drastically alter our world. This could mean significant changes, including the possibility of the Atlantic Ocean being affected by tectonic activity.
The study suggests this originated from a dormant subduction zone beneath the Gibraltar Strait. Over the next 20 million years, this inactive zone might awaken and extend into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Location of the Ring of Fire

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Researchers in Portugal have identified a subduction zone currently positioned beneath the Gibraltar Strait, which is the narrow stretch of water separating Spain and Morocco. They suggest that this subduction zone has the potential to extend further westward into the Atlantic Ocean.
This could lead to the eventual closure or reduction of the ocean basin. This significant change will happen in about 20 million years, which is still a long time away.

The Gibraltar Arc

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Scientists suggest that this change in movement started when a subduction zone initially developed along the northern region of the Mediterranean Sea.
Subduction zones are areas on Earth’s surface where one tectonic plate slides beneath another, leading to intense geological activity. This process often results in powerful seismic events like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Opinions About the Gibraltar Arc

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However, scientists have different opinions regarding the current state of the Gibraltar arc. Over the past five million years, activity within the Gibraltar arc seems to have slowed down or stalled.
Due to this, some researchers question whether the arc is still active at all. The findings of this new study shed light on why the arc has displayed little to no activity in recent times.

Subduction Zone that is Currently Inactive

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According to a recent study, the subduction zone beneath the Gibraltar Strait is currently dormant. This inactive state suggests that the Gibraltar arc is dormant and may remain so for the next 20 million years.
However, once this dormancy period concludes, the Gibraltar arc could resume its westward expansion, possibly extending into the Atlantic Ocean. This expansion could lead to significant geological activity in the region.

Scientist Are Skeptical

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Researchers involved in this study initially wanted to determine the current activity status of the Gibraltar arc. They aimed to do this despite the skepticism among many scientists.
Lead author João Duarte and his colleagues embarked on this mission by developing a new computer model to analyze the region’s geological dynamics.

About the Model

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The model was designed to simulate the formation of this subduction zone, which occurred approximately 34 to 23 million years ago. The model would then show the evolutionary process of the arc. It will also trace its development over time until reaching its current state.
The computer model predicts that the subduction zone under the Gibraltar Strait will move into the Atlantic. It will also create an Atlantic version of the “Ring of Fire” seen in the Pacific.

New Modeling Technologies

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The team’s simulation modeling incorporates advanced technologies that were not readily accessible to researchers until recently. Thanks to these cutting-edge tools, the study’s team achieved previously unusual results in the scientific community.
“We can now simulate the formation of the Gibraltar arc with great detail and also how it may evolve in the deep future,” Duarte explained.

The Five Million Years Old Change

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The study’s researchers made a significant discovery by applying this new computer model. The discovery was that approximately five million years ago, the speed of the arc experienced a sudden and substantial decline.
This deceleration coincided with the arc’s movement towards the boundary of the Atlantic Ocean. Initially, scientists anticipated that this decline in speed would lead to the failure of the arc. However, contrary to expectations, the team made an observation.

An Invasion of the Atlantic Ocean

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They observed that the arc would persist and gradually advance through the Gibraltar Strait over the next 20 million years. If this occurs, the arc would extend into the Atlantic Ocean, creating an Atlantic subduction system similar to those found in the Pacific Ocean.
This invasion would also trigger subduction on both sides of the Atlantic, causing the oceanic crust to be recycled into the mantle. Over time, this process would lead to the closure of the ocean.

The New Ring of Fire

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Indeed, a potential invasion of the Atlantic Ocean by the Gibraltar arc could give rise to a new Ring of Fire. Similar to the Pacific Ocean, where numerous subduction zones have formed, leading to the well-known Ring of Fire.
The emergence of subduction activity in the Atlantic could result in a comparable phenomenon. The Ring of Fire, also known as the Circum-Pacific Belt, is characterized by a high concentration of active volcanoes and frequent seismic activity along its path.

The Circum-Pacific Belt

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This extensive belt goes around the Pacific Ocean and has many places where tectonic plates come together. These spots cause volcanoes to erupt and earthquakes to occur.
If something like this were to happen in the Atlantic Ocean because of the Gibraltar arc, it could create a new Ring of Fire with similar volcanoes and earthquakes.

There Will be an Increase in Tentonic Movements

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Therefore, the Gibraltar arc might start moving tectonically in the next five million years, causing many volcanoes and earthquakes along its path. But until now, the arc hasn’t shown much tectonic activity.
The last major earthquake in the region was in 1755, known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake. Since then, there have been more minor earthquakes due to the slow movement of the area. Researchers believe another large earthquake soon is unlikely.