National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2006

Hydrothermal vent geology and biology at Earth’s fastest spreading rates

Hey, R.N., G.J. Massoth, R.C. Vrijenhoek, P.A. Rona, J. Lupton, and D.A. Butterfield

Mar. Geophys. Res., 27(2), 137–153, doi: 10.1007/s11001-005-1887-x (2006)

Earth’s fastest present seafloor spreading occurs along the East Pacific Rise near 31°–32°S. Two of the major hydrothermal plume areas discovered during a 1998 multidisciplinary geophysical/hydrothermal investigation of these mid-ocean ridge axes were explored during a 1999 Alvin expedition. Both occur in recently eruptive areas where shallow collapse structures mark the neovolcanic axis. The 31°S vent area occurs in a broad linear zone of collapses and fractures coalescing into an axial summit trough. The 32°S vent area has been volcanically repaved by a more recent eruption, with non-linear collapses that have not yet coalesced. Both sites occur in highly inflated areas, near local inflation peaks, which is the best segment-scale predictor of hydrothermal activity at these superfast spreading rates (~150 mm/yr).

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