May 17, 2017

New Zealand scientists find hot water deep in an earthquake fault

Rob Griffith / AP

New Zealand scientists recently found unexpectedly hot water while drilling into an earthquake fault in the country, according to a new study in Nature.

Why it matters: The 100-degree Celsius water, which would boil on the surface but remains a liquid because it is under pressure, could be used to generate electricity or provide direct heating. The Alpine Fault where it was found stretches for hundreds of miles — and is one of the most active earthquake faults in the world — but it is unclear how easy it would be to extract energy.

Why it's surprising: Usually geothermal energy is found around volcanic activity, but there aren't any volcanoes nearby where the researchers were drilling.

How the hot water was created: The researchers posit that earthquakes have moved hot rocks up from beneath the Earth's surface into the mountains, which have broken up from the shaking, therefore allowing rain and melted snow to trickle through the interior.

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