National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1988

Particle-size distributions within hydrothermal plumes over the Juan de Fuca Ridge

Walker, S.L., and E.T. Baker

Mar. Geol., 78(3–4), 217–226, doi: 10.1016/0025-3227(88)90110-7 (1988)

The particle-size distributions of suspended particles in neutrally buoyant hydrothermal plumes from two vent sites on the Juan de Fuca Ridge were measured with a Coulter counter. Hydrothermal particle populations were characterized by high volume concentrations of particles with diameters of <2 µm. Particle populations dominated by larger particles were rare and observed only very near active vent sources because of rapid settling and dilution. Particle-size distributions from particle plumes of hydrothermal origin can be readily distinguished from those of benthic nepheloid layers by the fine-particle tail, which is expressed on a cumulative number distribution by a slope much steeper than the oceanic norm of 3. The predominance of particles with diameters <2 µm within neutrally buoyant hydrothermal plumes demonstrates that the bulk of hydrothermal precipitates are capable of being dispersed over wide areas.

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