An international team of researchers under the supervision of the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, published a new study that provides new evidence confirming that the Red Sea is in fact an ocean that has reached advanced stages of development that made it They are similar to the known oceans in many properties.
The research team published its study in the journal Nature Communications.
The Red Sea separates the continent of Africa from the Arabian Peninsula, and its length is not more than 2,250 km, and its estimated width of only 355 km at its widest point.
What are the oceans distinguished over the seas?
The Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern Oceans are characterized by their wide extension, and they make up most of the Earth's hydrosphere, while smaller bodies of saltwater that are at least partially surrounded by land, such as the Mediterranean, are classified as seas.
But geologists go further in defining seas and oceans and classify oceans based on the existence of the oceanic crust made of basalt, which is formed when magma rushes out of the Earth's interior through faults on the ocean floor as the continents move away from each other.
At the present time, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula are disintegrating, a process called the continental drift, and the Red Sea is expanding between them at an average annual rate of more than one centimeter.
In the new study, and according to a press release published on the German Center’s website, scientists showed for the first time that the Red Sea floor and its rocky composition is a model for a young but developed ocean basin.
To reach this conclusion, the team mainly used gravitational and seismic data to develop a new tectonic model for the Red Sea basin, as well as information derived from high-resolution seafloor maps as a result of chemical studies conducted on rock samples.
Gravitational anomalies helped discover hidden seafloor structures such as fault axes and deep topography. The study authors balanced the gravitational patterns of the Red Sea axis with similar mid-ocean hills and found that the similarities outweigh the differences.
For example, researchers for the first time discovered similar anomalies at the two sites of gravity perpendicular to the axis of the fault, caused by differences in the thickness of the Earth's crust extending along the axis. They are very typical features of the oceanic crust in thicker and more active regions of magma.
On the other hand, bathymetric maps and seismic data supported the idea of a near-continuous rift valley throughout the Red Sea basin.
This was also confirmed by geochemical analyzes of rock samples from the few regions that are not covered by salt clumps, which showed the presence of geochemical fingerprints of the natural ocean crust, says Dr. Vruke van der Zwan, co-author of the study, according to the statement.
Sea or ocean?
With this new analysis of gravitational and seismic data, the team determined the beginning of the ocean's expansion in the Red Sea about 13 million years ago. This is more than twice the generally accepted age, says Dr. Niko Augustin of the Geumar Center.
This means that the Red Sea is no longer a small ocean, but it has reached a young stage and has a structure similar to the South Atlantic Ocean, which is about 120 million years old.
The authors confirm that the presented model is still under discussion in the scientific community, but it provides the best explanation for what we observe in the Red Sea, by explaining many details in the areas covered with salt and sediments in the Red Sea that were not explained by previous models.
But the new model also raises a number of questions that inspire further research into the nature of the Red Sea from a new scientific perspective.
So, don't expect to see the Red Ocean on the map anytime soon, even if the new model proves to be true. And (name) the Red Sea looks more beautiful, even though the seas are not bound to the oceanic crust, says Nico Augustin.