North-West Eifuku Champagne Vent
Only some decades ago it was discovered that at some submarine volcanoes can be found hot springs which emit liquid carbon dioxide. Best known is the North-West Eifuku Champagne Vent in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Temperature of liquid
Map of the site
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In 1990 there was published a Japanese research paper about the discovery of unusual hydrothermal vents in Okinawa Through – there deep under the water formed bubbles of liquid carbon dioxide.
Next "springs" of liquid carbon dioxide were discovered in the Northern Marianas in April/May 2004, when the active submarine volcanoes were explored by the USA-led "Submarine Ring of Fire 2004" expedition.
There were explored several active geothermal fields around the submarine NW Eifuku volcano, but the most exotic one had numerous soapy bubbles rising from it and thus this field was called "Champagne".
This unusual natural landmark is located at the depth of 1,607 m and the discovery was made by a robot – remotely-operated vehicle ROPOS.
Breath of the former life
The gases are coming through several so-called "white smokers" – small mounds which emit a light-colored, misty liquid. These mounds in the Champagne field are up to 1 m high and the emitted liquid is up to 103° C hot.
Next to these white plumes from the ocean bed are rising bubbles of cold (less than 4° C), liquid carbon dioxide. It is in a liquid state due to the high pressure in this depth. These bubbles are not transparent but rather white-colored – their walls are covered with hydrate (or clathrate) of carbon dioxide.
Also the white plume contains a very high, even unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide. Every second towards the surface of the ocean rise 23 moles of CO2.
Scientists consider that such a high amount of this gas is produced due to the following reasons:
- Here is located subduction zone – the floor of the ocean here is diving into the hot entrails of the Earth;
- Floor of the ocean is covered with a layer of carbonates (limestone, dolostone) – remnants of the ocean life, such as fishes, crustaceans and plankton;
- As carbonates reach the heat, there is emitted the carbon dioxide from this material. This gas rises upwards until it reaches atmosphere.
Thus, in a way these bubbles represent the last breath of the ocean life.
Lately there are discovered more and more such emissions of liquid carbon dioxide. Thus, for example, at Nikko and Daikoku submarine volcanoes such carbon dioxide bubbles rise from the pools of liquid sulfur. Wild exotics! New discoveries are reported also near the Kermadec Islands.
Scientists consider that these springs can help us to understand the effects of acidification on ocean life. Thus, it has been reported that mussels near NW Eifuku Champagne vents have considerably thinner shells. This research though is at an early stage.
- Lupton, J.; Lilley, M.; Butterfield, D.; Evans, L.; Embley, R.; Olson, E.; Proskurowski, G.; Resing, J.; Roe, K.; Greene, R.; Lebon, G. Liquid Carbon Dioxide Venting at the Champagne Hydrothermal Site, NW Eifuku Volcano, Mariana Arc. American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2004, abstract #V43F-08.
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