South Atlantic research cruise discovers massive iron plume

By on August 21, 2013

The discovery of a massive iron plume spewing from a hydrothermal vents has researchers rethinking ocean chemistry, according to a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution press release.

A crew discovered the iron in 2007 during a research cruise while looking for cobalt, iron and microorganisms in the South Atlantic Gyre. Water samples revealed much higher levels of iron and manganese than expected.

The samples were collected throughout the South Atlantic and led WHOI scientists to believe that the plume ranged in depth from 1,500 to 3,500 meters and spanned more than 1,000 kilometers of ocean. The ratio of iron to helium, which is used as an indicator for vent activity, was 80-fold greater than previous estimates of iron flux in the Southeast Pacific.

Further studies will be conducted on the plume to determine its exact shape and concentrations.

Image: WHOI researchers lower a trace metal rosette (Credit: Emily Nahas, University of Washington)

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