Earthquakes and landslides

Some geologists study undersea geologic faults—places where rocks in the Earth’s crust slide past one another. Sometimes this sliding produces undersea earthquakes, which damage structures on land and can also cause tsunamis and landslides.

Classic example of a pit and pillar feature from Endeavour Ridge.

Mid-ocean ridges

The great majority of the Earth's volcanism occurs at spreading centers, most of which are under the ocean, forming the mid-ocean ridge system where new ocean crust is being created.
This map shows the Gulf of Mexico and the locations of the Campeche Escarpment and the buried impact crater that caused a global extinction event about 65 million years ago. Base image: Google Earth

Mapping the demise of the dinosaurs

About 65 million years ago, an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow sea near what is now the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The resulting firestorm and global dust cloud caused the extinction of many land plants and large animals, including most of the dinosaurs.
A portion of the San Diego Trough Fault Zone that bisects an ancient seafloor channel called the San Gabriel Channel. The inset shows a close-up of the channel wall that has been offset by the fault, with white arrows indicating the direction of slip between the two plates. Image © 2013 MBARI.

Underwater robots help discover hidden faults

Hidden beneath ocean waves and masked by sand and mud on the seafloor, underwater faults are notoriously difficult to see and even more difficult to study. As a result, geologists struggle to evaluate the risks associated with these faults and often can’t include them in seismic hazard assessments.

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