Lakes of liquid CO2 in the deep sea

The thought of liquid CO2 conjures up different things to different folks: perhaps the decaffeination of coffee beans, perhaps the recently popularized “green” method for dry cleaning, or even phase diagrams that occupied a part of one’s life in past chemistry classes. What it does not conjure up is a subsurface lake at the bottom of the ocean, a lake with abundant living microbes, as reported in this issue of PNAS by Inagaki et al. (1). These authors discovered such a place near the Yonaguni Knoll in the Okinawa Trough at a depth of {approx}1,400 m. The description in both words and video (see supporting movie 1 in ref. 1) is quite striking. First, because liquid CO2 at this depth is less dense than water (2, 3), so that such a lake should not be present. Second, because this is a phenomenon that few of us have ever seen, movie 1 in ref. 1 reveals a flowing stream of liquid CO2 that seems almost surreal.

Kenneth N., 2006. Lakes of liquid CO2 in the deep sea. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science U.S.A. 103:13903-13904. Article

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