Determining Likely Vent Locations
Finding active hydrothermal vents takes a combination of leading-edge, multi-disciplined scientific detective work and good, old-fashioned luck. Clues include increased seawater temperature, certain chemical markers, creation of megaplumes, and recent volcanic or tectonic activity. Sites along the Mid-Ocean Ridge are most promising. It is a nearly 60,000-km (37,000-mi)-long, broken chain of mountains and valleys that runs around the earth under the oceans like the seam of a baseball.
This image shows a world map with the Mid-Ocean Ridge that circles the earth under the seas.
The Mid-Ocean Ridge (MOR) is the light blue, serpentine mountain chain on this map that winds its
way between the continents. See, for example, the S-shaped Mid-Atlantic Ridge that runs from
55 degrees S to 70 degrees N. The ridge forms a demarcation line between the earth's tectonic
plates and is the location of most hydrothermal vents.
Hydrothermal vents have been observed in all of the world's oceans. Hydrothermal vents have
also been studied in isolated seamounts
and even in Siberia's Lake Baikal.
Scientists have an array of tools to help them locate likely vent locations. They can map
and photograph the ocean floor to check for changes such as
and volcanic activity. Sensitive thermometers can measure temperature changes as small
as 1/500th of a degree. Sensors can detect minute concentrations of vent-associated
chemicals, and listen for earthquakes.
Listen to an underwater volcano! -->
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