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Mantle Plumes - Windows to the Universe

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This drawing shows a "plume" of hot material rising from the interior of a planet.


A "mantle plume" is a bubble of material which rises to the surface layers from the deep interior of the planet. The plume is the red portion shown in the drawing to the left. Such plumes are thought to form when a portion of the deep mantle is heated to several hundred degrees hotter than its surroundings. This portion of the mantle is now less dense than its surroundings and begins to rise, like a hot air balloon.

As it nears the surface, the plume may take on a mushroom-like shape, as shown here. The plume may push the surface upward, forming a rise. It also begins to generate magma, some of which escapes to the surface to form volcanoes, lava flows, and rift valleys. Rises like this may be found on Venus and Mars.

Hot plumes which rise from the interior to the surface help a planet to cool off.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA