A gurgling ‘Mud Pot’ is crawling across Southern California

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https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-new...180970787/

EXCERPT: At the southern end of the San Andreas Fault in California, where the North American and Pacific tectonic plates famously touch, sits a stinky, gurgling pool of mud. Scientists have been aware of this “mud pot,” as the geothermal feature is known, since the 1950s. But it has recently become a cause for concern because, as Robin George Andrews reports for National Geographic, the mud pot is on the move.

Called the “Niland Geyser” because it is located near the township of Niland in Imperial County, the mud pot began its sludgy trudge at some point between 2015 and 2016. The bubbling pool has since moved about 20 feet each year, carving a 24,000 square foot basin in the ground. Its pace is not particularly quick, but officials are nevertheless worried about what lies in its path.

According to Alejandra Reyes-Velarde and Rong-Gong Lin II of the Las Angeles Times, the mud is creeping in the direction of Union Pacific freight railroad tracks, a petroleum pipeline, fiber optic telecommunications lines owned by Verizon, and part of Highway 111, which connects the Coachella Valley to California’s border with Mexico. To date, attempts to stop the mud pot’s forward march have not been successful. Union Pacific tried to build a 100-foot wall that extended 75 feet into the ground to stop the mud from reaching its railroads. The mud simply oozed beneath the wall.

“It’s a slow-moving disaster,” Alfredo Estrada, fire chief and emergency services coordinator of Imperial County tells Reyes-Velarde and Lin.

Mud pots are not an uncommon geologic feature in volcanic areas [...but...] “No one has seen a moving mud pot before,” David Lynch, a physicist who studies geothermal features in the area...

MORE: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-new...180970787/
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