Facts About Hydrothermal Vents

Vibhav Gaonkar Feb 20, 2019
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Hydrothermal vents are outlets or fissures located on the floor of the sea, and emanate gases which are responsible for heating the surrounding water. The concept is almost the same as the one involved in hot water springs or geysers.

Did You Know?

A scaly-foot gastropod makes use of iron sulfides for the composition of its sclerite structure (produced by hydrothermal vents), instead of calcium carbonate.
The composition of the word 'hydrothermal', provides a clue to the meaning of the term. Hydro means water, and thermal means relating to heat. Only by splitting the term hydrothermal, we can very well make a strong presumption about what causes hydrothermal vents.
Hydrothermal vents are caused due to cracks or fissures emitting the Earth's hot insides, these vents are also caused to the presence of large amounts of water on its surface. These vents occur more commonly in areas of high volcanic activity. Let's learn about some more cool facts about this earthly phenomenon.

Interesting Facts About Hydrothermal Vents

Hydrothermal vents were discovered in 1977, when some scientists studying the Galápagos Rift (in the Pacific ocean) came across drastic temperature spikes.
Deep in the Atlantic ocean, there exist hydrothermal vents over a mountain range named 'Mid-Ocean Ridge'. This ridge is eruptive and spurts magma.
Due to the discovery of hydrothermal vents, a completely new ecosystem was unraveled, which included several species that resided near the vents.
Scientist realized that bacteria existing in the vent areas converted the emanated toxic minerals to usable energy forms. This was via a process called chemosynthesis, and helped in the provision of food for other vent-dwelling creatures.
Hydrothermal vents are formed when seawater seeps down to the ocean crust. It is then heated by hot magma and rises to mix with the cold seawater, thus solidifying into the vent structure.
There are two main types of such vents―black smoke and white smoke vents. Black smoke vents are the hottest of the lot, and emit dark black plumes which are rich in iron and sulfide. These vents can be as tall as 180 feet, which is a boggling 18 stories high.
White smokers emit light-colored smoke and are comparatively less hot than their black counterparts. The plumes emanated are cooler and rich in barium, silicon, and calcium. The temperatures in hydrothermal vents can rise up to or even exceed 750ºF.
The deepest vent known so far is located in Cayman Trough (in the Caribbean Sea). To be more precise, it is located between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates. Although the temperature in vents is drastically high, seawater does not boil due to extreme pressure present in the deep ocean.
In black smokers, the deposited sulfide turns to enormous sulfide ore deposits over time. This has lead mineral exploration companies to extract mineral deposits in hydrothermal vents.
Seafloor mining can have an adverse impact on the environment. The pollution and dust plumes produced by the mining machinery can affect vent-dwelling organisms, collapse vents, or lead to sub-oceanic landslides.
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