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Hydrothermal Field

6 August 2022

An off axis high temperature hydrothermal vent field has been discovered on the East Pacific Rise – see https://phys.org/news/2022-07-off-axis-high-temperature-hydrothermal-field-east.html … It consists of at least nine vents at a depth of 2550 metres. What effect do they have on life and chemistry in the Pacific? The field is around 2500 miles off the Pacific coast of Mexico and the findings are published in the PNAS jouornal – see https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2205602119

Deep sea hydrothermal vents are not necessarily well understood, and their role in the production of co2, as an example, is perhaps something that science should seek to find out. How many are there down there in the ocean depths, simmering away quietly in a region on earth that is less known than near space? They can be found, or are very often sought out, in the vicinity of seismically active regions, another area of research that would not go amiss a bit more field exploration. The same might be said of underwater volcanoes that seem to pop up in some unexpected places – in the midst of plates rather than at the edges. Mapping the sea floor is now a process in motion – or at least in regions off the coasts of North America and around Hawaii. Hydrothermal vents also occur near the mid ocean ridge that runs down the spine of the Atlantic. The article above rows out the usual mainstream Plate Tectonics theory which is then applied to hydrothermal vents, as a feature of Plate Tectonics. Some geologists might be a bit more cautious. Hydrothermal vents, like volcanoes, can occur away from plate boundaries. This is something that has not been explored to any degree of exactitude as it is usually assumed the two go hand in hand, as that is the preferred or accepted theory. Just as space is full of surprises it may be that the ocean bottom has its own set of oddities that will perplex scientists as they are contrary to theory. Who knows but only field research will tell. Hydrothermal vents are important as they produce mineral rich liquids that have been heated up below the sea floor. What role may they have played in past catastrophic events, such as the end of the Cretaceous asteroid strike?

The researchers collected fluids from the vents, or black smokers, and these were analysed for geochemical characteristics. Hotter temperatures than what might be expected may indicate an impending eruption. Self recording instruments have been laid down and these measured fluid temperatures every 10 minutes over 2 years, between 2018 and 2021,and by using an underwater vehicle they were able to produce high resolution maps of the sea floor. So, expect new discoveries from the sea floor in the future, albeit at a slow pace as it is expensive. What was unexpected is that they found vents either side of the trough, which adds complexity to Plate Tectonics. They now plan to check out other areas where mid ocean ridges are situated, and assumed plate boundaries.

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