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Study says: Atlantic Ocean is another “Ring of Fire”

Gibraltar Arc

A subduction zone under the Gibraltar Arc is moving westward, and the Atlantic Ocean could be another “Ring of Fire.” New research says that it is moving slowly and might have tectonic activities working toward extinction and creation respectively in the future.

The Gibraltar Arc system is located in the convergence zone of the Eurasian and African tectonic plates and is part of the Western Mediterranean. From Portugal and Spain to Morocco, the narrow corridor was formed in a few million years, and about 250 years ago, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes hit Europe. During the time-lapse, the Atlantic Ocean set up the basis of a “Ring of Fire,” to which some attribute the Atlanta myth.

A study published on February 13 through the journal Geology, emphasized the Gibraltar Arc will invade the Atlantic Ocean in 20 million years of process, setting a “Ring of Fire” eventually.

The two leading subduction zones in the Atlantic Ocean are the Lesser Antilles subduction zone in the Caribbean and the Scotia arc, near Antarctica and the Gibraltar Arc.

“These subduction zones invaded the Atlantic several million years ago,” lead author João Duarte, a geologist and assistant professor at the University of Lisbon, said in a statement. “Studying Gibraltar is an invaluable opportunity because it allows observing the process in its early stages when it is just happening.”

To test whether the Gibraltar arc is still active, Duarte and his colleagues built a computer model that simulated the birth of the subduction zone in the Oligocene epoch (34 million to 23 million years ago) and its evolution until the present day. The researchers noticed an abrupt decline in the arc’s speed 5 million years ago, as it approached the Atlantic boundary. “At this point, the Gibraltar subduction zone seems doomed to fail,” they wrote in the study.

The team then modeled the arc’s fate over the next 40 million years and found it painstakingly pushes its way through the narrow Gibraltar Strait from the present day over the next 20 million years. “Strikingly, after this point, the trench retreat slowly speeds up, and the subduction zone widens and propagates oceanward,” the researchers wrote in the study, according to Yahoo News.

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