Deep-sea hot springs

  • Exhibition Text

    • Driven by heat from molten rock, the entire ocean circulates every one to ten million years through the crust along the mid-ocean ridges. About 80 percent of the Earth’s internal heat escapes in this way. This vast circulation — the underwater hydrothermal system — influences the composition of the ocean. The circulating hot seawater deposits some elements, such as magnesium, in the crust, and dissolves other elements, particularly metals, adding them to the ocean.

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  • For Educators

    • Topic: Earth Science

      Subtopic: Oceans

      Keywords: Hydrothermal vents, Oceanography, Ocean circulation, Ocean bottom, Heat, Chemical elements, Mid-ocean ridges

      Audience: General

In This Section

How hydrothermal systems work

How hydrothermal systems work

At mid-ocean ridges, cold seawater is drawn down, heated, and forced to circulate through an extensive system of cracks above bodies of molten rock.

How sulfide chimneys form

How sulfide chimneys form

Tiny particles of metal sulfide and oxide minerals, resembling black “smoke,” billow from the hot-water vents.