Hydrothermal vents pumping super-heated water into Gulf of California

And we wonder what is heating our seas.

“As the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) descended into the blue depths above the Alarcón Rise, the control room was abuzz with anticipation,” wrote Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) geologist Julie Martin in her April 22nd cruise log. “Today we [are] planning to dive on one of the strangest environments in the deep sea: a hydrothermal vent field.”

Adding to the team’s excitement was the fact that this hydrothermal vent field had never been explored before. In fact, it had only just been discovered… by a robot.

The Alarcón Rise - Image: © MBARI 2012

The Alarcón Rise is a 31-mile- (50-km) long spreading center in the Gulf of California. Along ocean spreading ridges like the Alarcón Rise, the seafloor is splitting apart as lava wells up from underneath.

Thirty one miles long, incredibly close to the United States, and never before explored.

In February of this year, MBARI researchers embarked on a three-month-long expedition to the Gulf of California, the long, narrow body of water between Baja California and mainland Mexico.

In April, marine geologists studied the Alarcón Rise, an active volcanic region near the mouth of the gulf. Volcanic “spreading centers” such as the Alarcón Rise are hotbeds of volcanic activity, where underwater volcanoes spread lava across the seafloor and hydrothermal vents spout water heated by magma beneath the seafloor to over 550 degrees Fahrenheit. “The floor of the Gulf of California is full of these vents,” says the MBARI website.

“FULL of these vents”! Heating the water to 2½ times the boiling point! And we wonder what is heating our seas?

Super-heated water (550°F hot) spews from the Alarcón Rise. The mineral-rich water from this “black smoker” looks like smoke because of the mineral particles that form as the hot fluid contacts cold seawater. Image: © MBARI 2012

Years earlier, in 2003, chief scientist David Clague and colleague Robert Vrijenhoek spent two dives unsuccessfully searching for vents within just a few kilometers of the newly discovered site. At that time, they chose their dive sites based on only low-resolution maps of the seafloor and “the presence of abnormally warm water in the area.” (Italics added)

This time, however, Clague’s team knew exactly where to look, because two weeks earlier, MBARI’s autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), the D. Allan B., had spotted the tall chimney structures.

MBARI’s mapping AUV is a specialized robotic submersible that uses three types of sonar to map features on the seafloor as little as 15 centimeters (five inches) tall.

Over the past couple of years, the mapping AUV has generated several new discoveries, including a recent underwater lava flow. Also, since 2006, it has discovered previously unknown chimneys at three locations along the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the Washington-Oregon coast.

See entire article:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/06/09/deep-sea-hydrothermal-vents-discovered-in-gulf-of-ca lifornia/

See also:

Thanks to Russ Steele and Gregory Ludvigsen for these links

14 thoughts on “Hydrothermal vents pumping super-heated water into Gulf of California”

  1. “And we wonder what is heating our seas?”

    nothing to wonder about, its my sons Chevy Tahoe! LOL

    • It must be one gas guzzler. LOL

      In the 1970s Dad told me there used to be races where instead of being the first to win you actually have to use up the most gas.

      They’d have measuring tape on the gas tanks and during the drag race if you use up the most fuel you win!

      The race didn’t last very long before it got banned.

  2. I wonder if these vents exist in the arctic?The thickness looks ok but the extent doesn’t look so good at all right now.

    • Correct..! That is why I make ice cubes in my toaster oven…. because Global Warming is what causes Ice Ages … So, I have to heat the water in order to get it cold enough to freeze… LoL

  3. To Robertvdl: I about fell off my chair laughing at your remark about heat going down!!

    And I am contributing to the heating of the seas since I am so evil and driving a Chevy Trailblazer!!!!

    So these chimneys are in all the mid-ocean ridges??? And how many are in the arctic ocean???

  4. I think this is the phrase I liked best in this article – ” Volcanic “spreading centers” such as the Alarcón Rise are hotbeds of volcanic activity, where underwater volcanoes spread lava across the seafloor and hydrothermal vents spout water heated by magma beneath the seafloor to over 550 degrees Fahrenheit. ” Why I like that is that actually, since I have no “faith” in tectonic plate actions, this makes by far the most sense – a world that is expanding. Instead of “fractures,” we have “ruptures,” and I still have never heard an answer to a simple question about the Japanese quake – or the earlier, Chilean quake – where, in the case of Japan, the area moved 8 feet, but relative to what? Did it move 8 feet away from the US and 8 feet closer to the mainland, or did it just move 8 feet relative to where it was without changing anything else? If so, how? If it moved further from the US but not nearer to the mainland, then the Earth expanded. So this “Rise” is a “spreading volcanic region” but somehow the Baja doesn’t move? Maybe the newly found activity wasn’t because they didn’t have good enough ways to find the vents, but they didn’t exist in 2003 in the size and dimensions that they do now, having been caused by a rupturing of the area caused by the several 6+ earthquakes that have happened in the region in the past few years, as the Earth continues to grow ever so slowly.

  5. Robert, these vents didn’t just appear because a robot came crusing around. They have been there for probably millions of years. It’s all part of the tectonic plate system. The Atlantic spreading ridge is the same. Water is very dense and the heat from these vents is quickly disapated, otherwise, after millions of years, we would have boiling oceans, right? Over 321 million cubic miles of H20 in the oceans is on heck of a lot of mass to heat up in any substantial way. Check out this site: http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/Water/temp.html The average temperature of the deep ocean is 32-37 degree Fahrenheit (0-3 degrees Celsius). And 90% of the ocean lies below the thermocline where the Sun warms the surface waters and the wind and waves mix it above the thermocline. There is little to no mixing below the thermocline.

  6. …. Ummm heat doesn’t go down. Heat speeds up molecules which causes them to interact more forcefully, spreading them apart and lowering density. Free flowing liquids. (Which includes gases) are arranged based on density. This means high density liquids are alwats on bottom and heated liquids are always rising.

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