Vents Around the World

Vent Sites

More than 200 hydrothermal vent fields have been observed so far, and there may be a thousand more remaining to be discovered, mainly along Earth’s plate boundaries.

Hot or molten rock (magma) beneath the ocean floor is the engine that drives hydrothermal vents. It heats the hydrothermal fluids, causing them to move upwards through the crust. Therefore, hydrothermal vents are found only in areas where there is volcanic activity and the magma is close enough to the surface to heat the fluids. Most of the vents scientists have discovered are along the Mid-Ocean Ridge. There are vents on the Loihi Seamount, the newest underwater volcano in the Hawaii chain. Vents are also found along some subduction zones.

Vents can occur at any depth. Some are as deep as 3,600 meters. Others off the coast of New Zealand are only 30 meters deep. Vents are also found on land. Two of the most famous examples are the hot springs and geysers in Yellowstone National Park in the United States and on the North Island of New Zealand.

Map data sources: InterRidge Vents Database; ETOPO1, NOAA NGDC; University of Texas PLATES Project; Credits: Stace Beaulieu, Michael Lowe, Erin LaBrecque, and Katherine Joyce (WHOI); Funding: NSF GEO#1202977