Home / Learning / Science Topics / Ocean Floor / Underwater Exploration / Finding Hydrothermal Plumes

Finding Hydrothermal Plumes

Hydrothermal plumes can be used to locate hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

CDTO profiler being deployed

CDTO profiler being deployed

Plumes form when the hydrothermal fluids exit seafloor vents and mix with the surrounding seawater.

The hot plumes rise until they lose buoyancy, and then are moved away by oceanic currents within fixed-density oceanic layers.

They can be tracked using a sophisticated package of instruments, a ‘CDTO’ profiler, towed behind a ship just above the seafloor.

C - conductivity
D – depth (i.e. pressure)
T – temperature
O – optics (i.e. light scattering)

The concentrations of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, methane and helium in seawater samples, collected in bottles attached to the profiler, are measured on board the ship.