Vents Around the World
More than 200 hydrothermal vent fields have been observed so far, and there may be a thousand more remaining to be discovered, mainly along Earth’s plate boundaries.
Hot or molten rock (magma) beneath the ocean
floor is the engine that drives hydrothermal vents. It heats the
hydrothermal fluids, causing them to move upwards through the crust.
Therefore, hydrothermal vents are found only in areas where there
is volcanic activity and the magma is close enough to the surface
to heat the fluids. Most of the vents scientists have discovered
are along the Mid-Ocean Ridge. There are vents on the Loihi Seamount,
the newest underwater volcano in the Hawaii chain. Vents are also
found along some subduction zones.
Vents can occur at any depth. Some are as deep as 3,600 meters. Others off the
coast of New Zealand are only 30 meters deep. Vents are also found on land. Two
of the most famous examples are the hot springs and geysers in Yellowstone National
Park in the United States and on the North Island of New Zealand.
Map data sources: InterRidge Vents Database; ETOPO1, NOAA NGDC; University of Texas PLATES Project; Credits: Stace Beaulieu, Michael Lowe, Erin LaBrecque, and Katherine Joyce (WHOI); Funding: NSF GEO#1202977