Cold Seeps

Background Information

Below you will find a collection of fact sheets, content essays, and stories from our explorers on board cold seeps expeditions featured on the OceanExplorer.NOAA.gov website.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Mission Visits New Methane Plumes

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Mission Visits New Methane Plumes

On July 12, 2019, the 100th NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer mission visited new methane plumes where the U.S. Atlantic seeps story began.

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An Update on Cold Seeps in the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean

An Update on Cold Seeps in the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean

Cold seeps occur where highly saline and hydrocarbon-rich fluids, such as methane and sulfides, escape from the seafloor at close to ambient temperatures. Cold seeps are an important component of deep-sea ecosystems because they often fuel entire communities that rely upon bacteria that convert chemicals (e.g., hydrocarbons) to food through a process called chemosynthesis.

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Discoveries at a Methane Seep Field Offshore Bodie Island, North Carolina

Discoveries at a Methane Seep Field Offshore Bodie Island, North Carolina

NOAA’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer, explored cold seeps along a ridge about 62 kilometers (39 miles) offshore Bodie Island, North Carolina. These methane seeps had never before been visited and scientists were excited to make new discoveries here.

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Chemosynthetic Communities in the Gulf of Mexico

Chemosynthetic Communities in the Gulf of Mexico

From the Gulf of Mexico 2017 expedition. Cold seeps are unique because they have a plentiful and readily available food source (bacteria), so animals living on seeps can grow to large sizes rapidly and reproduce quickly, unlike in the rest of the deep sea which is very food limited. In this essay, learn more about the communities that live near cold seeps in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Exploration of Cold Seeps on the North Atlantic Continental Margin

Exploration of Cold Seeps on the North Atlantic Continental Margin

From the Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition 2013 expedition. The continental shelf and slope off the northeastern United States hosts an incredible diversity of habitats including approximately 70 submarine canyons. These canyons remain little explored but the topography, currents, and sedimentation in and around these submarine canyons support complex systems including chemosynthetic ecosystems in the form of cold seeps.

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Communities and Gas Hydrates at Cold Seeps South of Nantucket

Communities and Gas Hydrates at Cold Seeps South of Nantucket

From the Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition 2013 expedition. On July 11 and July 12, 2013, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle targeted seafloor sites located about 165 kilometers south of the island of Nantucket. These dives were the first scientific explorations of newly discovered seeps.

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Discovery of a New Deep Chemosynthetic Community

Discovery of a New Deep Chemosynthetic Community

From the Deepwater Canyons 2013 - Pathways to the Abyss expedition. During this expedition, the team found a patch of live mussels, confirming the suspicions of scientists on the Okeanos Explorer the previous year. The team also found a brand new seep site, one of the very few known off the U.S. Atlantic coast at the time.

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Baltimore cold seeps re-discovered!!

Baltimore Cold Seeps Re-discovered!!

From the Deepwater Canyons 2012 expedition. During this expedition, scientists located a cold seep site first discovered in the 1980s. The Baltimore Canyon seep site covers a considerable area, and at 400-430 meters, it is also very shallow compared to the Blake Ridge (2,000-3,000 meters depth) seep site.

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Biodiversity of the Deep, Reducing and Chile Margins

Biodiversity of the Deep, Reducing and Chile Margins

From the INSPIRE: Chile Margin 2010 expedition. At the Concepcion methane seep area off Chile, the diverse habitats provided by the methane seep has resulted in incredibly high diversity, in part because it attracts animals from surrounding habitats. Early exploration of recently discovered seeps off Chile suggests the Chile margin represents an entirely novel biogeographic province — an area with almost all species new to science.

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Methane in the Ocean

Methane in the Ocean

From the INSPIRE: Chile Margin 2010 expedition. Methane is produced in two primary ways in the ocean, thermogenically and biogenically. Thermogenic methane is produced deep within the seafloor when organic material is degraded by the Earth’s heat. Biogenic methane is produced as a waste product when microorganisms called methanogenic archaea eat organic material.

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The above items are only a selection of the educational materials highlighting cold seeps on our website.

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