National Geographic News
A pair of images shows a mud volcano emerging from the Arabian Sea.

Satellite pictures of the Pakistani coast in February (left) and November 2010.

Photographs courtesy Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, EO-1/NASA

Victoria Jaggard

National Geographic News

Published January 26, 2011

There's a new island in the azure waters off Pakistan, but you might want to hold off on vacation planning: The tiny dot is a mud volcano that will likely disappear before it sees 1,001 Arabian nights.

Pakistani fishers reported the new mud volcano in the Arabian Sea in late November, and NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite snapped a picture of it (right) on January 11. The volcano was not in a satellite picture of the same region taken last February.

According to NASA, mud volcano "islands" have appeared in the Arabian Sea before, and most have washed away within a few months. In fact, the January picture shows tan sediments steaming from the new mud volcano, suggesting it is eroding and will soon vanish.

Mud volcanoes, which can appear on land or underwater, form when underground layers of silt or clay become pressurized either by tectonic activity or by a buildup of hydrocarbon gases.

(Related: "'Mud Volcano' in Indonesia Caused by Gas Exploration, Study Says.")

Pakistan's mud volcanoes are driven by plate tectonics: The Arabian plate is subducting—or diving under—the Eurasian landmass, churning up sediments that form Pakistan's coastal plains and an offshore slope.

Underneath the plains, subduction is also melting rock into magma, which infuses the groundwater with heat and volcanic gases. The resulting acidic brew dissolves the rocks above into a slurry of mud and hydrocarbons, which then seeps through faults in slow eruptions.

Most mud volcanoes stand only a few inches to several feet high, but the land-based ones on Pakistan's plains can rise up to 330 feet (100 meters). Some of these peaks have been known to spew gas plumes that spontaneously combust, sending tongues of fire high into the sky.

At about two miles (three kilometers) offshore, the new mud volcano is probably poking up from water that's about 98 to 197 feet (30 to 60 meters) deep, said James R. Hein, a U.S. Geological Survey senior scientist in Menlo Park, California.

Its surface mud is relatively cool but "is likely water-saturated, so stays gooey to souplike depending on the amount of saturation," Hein said.

Like hydrothermal vents, underwater mud volcanoes—known as cold seeps—can have their own unique ecosystems filled with life-forms that get most of their energy from chemical sources, such as methane, he said. (See pictures of "Medusa" worms found at a mud volcano near Spain.)

It's rare for such mud volcanoes to breach the water's surface, Hein added. The researcher isn't aware of any that have lasted long enough to support island living, although it's possible the mud contains some bacteria that thrive above the waves.

2 comments
Marjan Ansari
Marjan Ansari

سلام 

من یکی از علاقمندان به نشینونال جغرافی هستم و همیشه تقریبا برنامه را دنبال میکنم و من

سپاسگزارم  از اطلاعات مفید ولی الان به اینکه این اطلاعات تا چه اندازه صحت دارد  شک کردم .. میدانید چرا؟ زیرا از شما بعید است که نام دریای عمان و اقیانوس هند را به نام دریای عربی بکار ببرید ؟؟  میدانید زمین  تا آسمان تفاوت است بین عرب و ایران یا پارس .... عربستان سعودی همسایه افریقا میباشد به دلیل حمله های هیتلر به  هلند ، فرانسه و لهستان  انها مدتی تحت اختبار انها بودند، شما انها را هنوز به نام خودشان صدا میزنید و یا زمانی یونان و روم ایران را شغال کردند ، وقتی رفتند دیگر کسی به ایرانیها نمیگفت  که شما رومی هستید یا یونانی  یا چرا مغولها را فراموش کرده اید  یا چرا اسپاینها یا پرتفالیها یا فرانسوی ها که در کشورهای که  مستعمره انها بودند ورفتند زبان رسمی اشان شاید  عوض شده باشد ولی کسی انها را بنام دیگر غیر از انی که هستند خطاب نمیکند  مثلا فیلیپین یا کشورهای مختلف افریقایی ؟‌  ولی چرا شما اصرار دارید که قومی را عرب  بشناسید حتی مردم مصر یا لبنان  نژاد عرب نیستند ... چون مدتی حاکم اسلامی بر انها  حاکمیت داشته است انها عرب نمیشوند تنها زبان است که شاید در برخی باقی مانده باشد ..  تنها یهودیان هستند که ریشه خودشان را دینشان میدانند ... داشتن فرهنگ اسلامی دلیل بر ملیت انسان نیست . مگر مسیحیهای المان یا فرانسه خودشان را عرب میدانند ؟ دین مسیحیت از کشور عرب امده چرا شما خودتان را جدا  میکنید ؟؟؟‌

تعجب بزرگ من از این نشیونال جغرافی است که  اعتبار خودتان را دست کم پیش ما ایرانیها کم میشود ... نه از بین میرود. 

Hi

I am one of the national geographic interested , always about the program and I 'm looking for

 Thank you for useful information but now I suspect that such information is accurate to what extent . Do you know why? It is unlikely that you called Arabic Sea, Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean to apply ? You know the difference between Arabs and Iran or Persia to the sky .... Hitler's invasion of Africa is in neighboring Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands , France and Poland, while they were in the Testings them , you miss them as they 're called , or when the jackal Iran, Greece and Rome , when they no longer Iran, would notPhilippines or in different African countries ? but why do you insist that Arab tribal Egyptians or Lebanese Arab descent do not even know ... As a rule they have on the Arab Islamic government is not the only language that can be maybe some remain . Just as the Jewish roots of their religion ... Islamic culture not because of nationality . Msyhyhay not know German or French themselves Arabs ? Christianity came from Arab countries , why do you cut yourself ?

My big surprise is that the national geographic your credit is low , at least before we Iranians ... Not go away .

Make use of Google Translate ....

Thank you

Tamer Braika
Tamer Braika

it seems like today's events is a new mud volcano, from few pictures I saw, the surfce looks sandy and muddy. the size & dimensions looks also prety coherent with Mud volcano sizes

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