|.||What is a Hydrothermal Plume?|
Hydrothermal plumes can be detected in seawater overlying vent fields, and beyond, because they have a distinctly different physical and chemical signature from the surrounding seawater. The heat and particle content of hydrothermal plumes are two readily measurable parameters. These parameters are usually elevated relative to unaffected seawater, and measurable differences can be detected as far as tens to hundreds of kilometers away from the vent fields. The NOAA-VENTS Plume Studies Group has pioneered methods for measuring and mapping hydrothermal plumes based on the detection of these temperature and particle anomalies.
The distribution and intensity of hydrothermal plumes is variable in both space and time. Volcanic activity on the seafloor can produce enormous and profound changes in hydrothermal discharge. The importance of this impact was first realized with the discovery of a "megaplume" in 1986, and subsequent verification of fresh lava flows on the seafloor in the same area. Since that time, a major objective of the NOAA-VENTS program has been to monitor for and respond to volcanic events occurring on mid-ocean ridges off the west coast of the United States to assess the impact of these events on the ocean environment, particularly with respect to the thermophile and hyperthermophile microbial community they release into the ocean, and to track the subsequent evolution of hydrothermal systems.
What are hydrothermal plumes? | Why Study? | History | Study Areas | Methods