Giant Arctic and Antarctic Sub-Polar Faults Actively Move, Emit Methane and Emit Heat


Figure 1.) Topographic relief map illustrating a portion of the Arctic Ocean seafloor ultra slow moving 1,600 mile long Gakkel Ridge fault zone (deep blue trench).

A just released and groundbreaking research study details how major deep ocean fault zones, like those located beneath the Arctic (Figure 1) and Antarctic ice caps, are constantly moving but don’t generate major earthquakes (see here). The study goes on to contend that these so-called ultra-slow moving mid-ocean ridges  differ from other major deep ocean fault zones in several significant ways; are associated with a huge seafloor rock layer circulating system, emit methane (an atmospheric warming gas), and most importantly emit super-heated seawater into the overlying ocean.

Why no major earthquakes? The study shows that the seawater circulating systems moves large amounts of seawater 10 miles downward along the very deep reaching portions of the fault zone. When this seawater goes deep enough to come in contact with earth’s upper mantle layer it triggers deposits along all rock surfaces adjacent to the fault with a soft slippery mineral called serpentinite. This mineral deposition acts to lubricate the fault system and thereby allow it to constantly move in the form of very minor earthquakes.

The conclusions of the research study run counter to conventional geological principles which state that lack of major earthquakes  along mid-ocean ridges  is proof these fault systems are inactive. Turns out these faults systems are actually much more active than previously thought, because they are constantly moving and emitting fluids into the overlying ocean.

The conclusions of the new research study do support several of the basic tenets of the now two-year-old Plate Climatology Theory:

In a broader sense this new study can be interpreted to strengthen the notion that there is much more to be discerned about the connection between deep ocean geological forces and how they influence our oceans, our ice caps, and ultimately our climate. Does it prove beyond any doubt that geological forces drive all polar ice cap melting, or account for much of the methane being emitted into our atmosphere.  No it does not.  However this research by Dr. Vera Schlindwein of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) has proven one thing…. the discussion concerning what drives climate is not 97% completed.

James Edward Kamis is a Geologist and AAPG member of 42 years with a B.S. and M.S. in geology who has always been fascinated by the connection between Geology and Climate. More than 11 years of research / observation have convinced him that the Earth’s Heat Flow Engine, which drives the outer crustal plates, is also an important driver of the Earth’s climate. The Plate Climatology Theory ( was recently presented at the annual 2016 American Metrological Society Conference in New Orleans, LA. (see here)