American Oceans

Hydrothermal Vents vs Underwater Volcanoes

Hydrothermal vents and underwater volcanoes are two of the most fascinating and mysterious features of the ocean floor.

an underwater volcano leaking magma into the ocean

Both are formed by the intense geological activity that occurs beneath the surface of the ocean, and both have been the subject of extensive scientific study in recent years.

While they share many similarities, there are also important differences between these two phenomena that make them unique and fascinating in their own right.

Together, we will explore the similarities and differences between hydrothermal vents and underwater volcanoes, and delve into the scientific research that is helping us to better understand these enigmatic features of the deep ocean.

Are Hydrothermal Vents Underwater Volcanoes?

Hydrothermal vents are often associated with underwater volcanoes, but they aren’t the exact same thing.

hydrothermal vents spewing smoke at the bottom of the ocean

The heat of underwater volcanic activity is what creates the hydrothermal vents, and what powers them.

This is similar to how geysers tend to form near active volcanic areas, without being volcanoes themselves.

Undersea volcanoes do exist, and they account for most of the volcanoes found on Earth. A volcano is a break in the Earth’s crust, where lava, ash, and gas release from an underground magma chamber.

Due to the weight of the water above them, undersea volcanoes don’t erupt in the same way those above ground do.

Sometimes, even large underwater volcanoes can erupt without disturbing the ocean surface at all. Eruptions from these volcanoes will often cool quickly, forming solid structures.

Hydrothermal vents have similar features to a volcano, but are smaller, and they don’t function in completely the same way.

Water plays a critical role, as it’s the heating of the water that leads to the expulsion at a hydrothermal vent. While the toxic chemicals released from the hydrothermal vents cools similarly to lava, it isn’t the same substance.

The areas of fissures, and close presence of magma, mean that hydrothermal vents often form near underwater volcanoes. However, hydrothermal vents aren’t a type of volcano.

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