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On The Ocean Floor Scientists Want To Record Earths Pulse

The seismometers, which detect vibrations caused by seismic waves, will be deployed throughout a region encompassing the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira archipelagos. They will continually record Earth’s ground moti

UPFLOW (UPward mantle FLOW from innovative seismic measurements), a UCL-led initiative, attempts to better comprehend large upwellings of material pushing up from Earth’s mantle.

It is the first time that these incredibly sensitive equipment have been used to cover such a broad area of the North Atlantic water. They are poorly understood and, because they can occur far away from continental plate boundaries, cannot be explained by plate tectonics theory.

“This is a one-of-a-kind seismic experiment,” said primary investigator Professor Ana Ferreira of UCL Earth Sciences.

“This is the first time we’ve used these incredibly sensitive instruments to cover such a broad area of the North Atlantic Ocean.”

“Through analyzing their data, we expect to gain a better understanding of huge motions hundreds of kilometers down in the Earth’s mantle, particularly upward flows of material that we still don’t fully comprehend.”

“These motions are what ultimately produce volcanic eruptions and can also contribute to earthquakes,” says the initiative’s chief scientist. The project will utilize a new seismic imaging approach, which analyzes seismic waves to characterize the structure beneath the Earth’s surface. It was previously used by astrophysicists to investigate faraway galaxies.

“Our data will also have a significant legacy,” Prof Ferreira added. “It will enable a wide range of research activity, from watching whales via the sounds they make as they pass close to the seismometers to monitoring earthquakes and volcanic disturbances.”

“The data can also be used to analyze interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, and solid Earth,” said co-investigator Professor Jorge Miguel Alberto de Miranda, president of the IPMA. “Massive motions deep beneath the Earth’s surface are responsible for the creation of the Canary Islands, as well as the volcanic islands of Madeira and the Azores.”

Prof Ferreira’s trip on the research vessel Mario Ruivo (operated by project partner IPMA, the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere) will drop the seismometers to the ocean floor during the next five weeks, where they will anchor themselves for a year before being collected.

She will also participate in Zoom calls with primary school students in the UK, as well as engage with youngsters in Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland during this period.

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