EROSION OF SEAFLOOR RIDGES AT THE TOP OF THE GAS HYDRATE STABILITY ZONE, HIKURANGI MARGIN, NEW ZEALAND – NEW INSIGHTS FROM RESEARCH CRUISES BETWEEN 2005 AND 2007. Pecher, Ingo A.; Henrys, Stuart A.; Ellis, Susan; Crutchley, Gareth; Fohrmann, Miko; Gorman, Andrew R.; Greinert, Jens; Chiswell, Stephen M.; TAN0607 Scientific Party; SO191 Scientific Party
It was proposed that erosion of subsea ridges on the Hikurangi margin may be linked to a fluctuating level of the top of gas hydrate stability in the ocean. Since publication of this hypothesis, three field campaigns were conducted in the study area. Here we summarize relevant results from these cruises. We found that water temperature fluctuations occur at lower frequencies and higher amplitudes than previously thought, making it more likely that temperature changes reach sub-seafloor gas hydrates. Dredge samples encountered numerous consolidated mudstones. We speculate that gas hydrate “freeze-thaw” cycles may lead to dilation of fractures in mudstones due to capillary forces, weakening the seafloor. Ubiquitous gas pockets beneath the ridge may lead to overpressure that may also contribute to seafloor fracturing.
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