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FROM THE MIDOCEAN RIDGES TO THE BLACK SMOKERS. What is it a midocean ridge? A midocean ridge it’s due to the divergence between two plates (e.g. The African.

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Presentation on theme: "FROM THE MIDOCEAN RIDGES TO THE BLACK SMOKERS. What is it a midocean ridge? A midocean ridge it’s due to the divergence between two plates (e.g. The African."— Presentation transcript:

1 FROM THE MIDOCEAN RIDGES TO THE BLACK SMOKERS

2 What is it a midocean ridge? A midocean ridge it’s due to the divergence between two plates (e.g. The African plate and the South-American plate ). The birth of the Atlantic Ocean (from Zullini) The plates move away one from the other.

3 How long are the Oceanic spreading ridges? The Oceanic spreading ridges measure about km in length. They occupy about 10% of the earth’s surface.

4 The Mid-Atlantic Ridge The Mid-Atlantic Ridge goes from the Greeenland in the north (80° N latitude) to the end of South America in the south (55°S latitude).

5 Due to the rise of the molten mantle, the lithosphere is broken resulting in the formation of a narrow valley, called «rift» (as the «Great Rift Valley» in Africa). The rift is surrounded by normal faults (red lines in the picture). From the rift exits the lava. How born a mid-ocean ridge The Great Rift Valley in Africa (from Zullini). The black triangles indicate the active vulcanos.

6 If the spreading continues there will be the formation of a sea (e.g the Red Sea) and finally an Ocean (e.g. the Atlantic Ocean ). From the Rift Valley to the Ocean

7 Along the ridges the molten rock (the magma) coming from the asthenosphere is driven by convective motions breaking the oceanic crust and causing undersea volcanic eruptions. What happens in a midocean ridge

8 Alvin and the «black smokers» Deep-sea hydrothermal vents occur along the midocean ridges. Several different vents have been discovered since the first site was found in 1977 near the Galapagos Islands by earth scientists in the small research submersible ALVIN. One reason that relatively few sites have been observed is that scientists have explored only a small portion of the 50,000 kilometers of midocean ridges Da whoi.edu/

9 The «black smokers» These black smokers are chimneylike structures made up of sulfur-bearing minerals or sulfides that come from beneath Earth's crust. They form when hot (roughly 350¡C), mineral-rich water flows out onto the ocean floor through the volcanic lava on a mid- ocean ridge volcano.

10 The black smokers Deep-sea hydrothermal vents support extraordinary ecosystems deep beneath the surface of the oceans. These ecosystems are the only communities on Earth whose immediate energy source is not sunlight. Life on Earth, and even possibly on other planets, may have formed in environments similar to these. gulf of California 2003 Sopra, agglomerato di batteri tube worms black smoker

11 The black smokers Above: Instead of photosynthesis, vent ecosystems derive their energy from chemicals in a process called "chemosynthesis." Both methods involve an energy source (1), carbon dioxide (2), and water to produce sugars (3). Photosynthesis gives off oxygen gas as a byproduct, while chemosynthesis produces sulfur (4). Image courtesy Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

12 Life began next to the black smokers? Unlike plants that rely on sunlight, bacteria living in and around the dark vents extract their energy from hydrogen sulfide (HS) and other molecules that billow out of the seafloor. Just like plants, the bacteria use their energy to build sugars out of carbon dioxide and water. Sugars then provide fuel and raw material for the rest of the microbe's activities. Astrobiologists are increasingly convinced that life on Earth itself might have started in the sulfurous cauldron around hydrothermal vents. Vent environments minimize oxygen and radiation, which can damage primitive molecules. Indeed, many of the primordial molecules needed to jump-start life could have formed in the subsurface from the interaction of rock and circulating hot water driven by hydrothermal systems.

13 The chemistry of a black smoker Right: The chemistry of a "black smoker." After sea water seeps into the crust (1), oxygen and potassium (2) and then calcium, sulfate, and magnesium (3) are removed from the water. As the water begins to heat up (4), sodium, potassium, and calcium dissolve from the crust. Magma superheats the water, dissolving iron, zinc, copper, and sulfur (5). The water then rises back to the surface (6), where it mixes with the cold seawater, forming black metal-sulfide compounds (7). Image courtesy Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


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