Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Characteristics of magma-driven hydrothermal systems at oceanic spreading centers

Authors

  • Robert P. Lowell,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
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  • Aida Farough,

    1. Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
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  • Joshua Hoover,

    1. Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
    2. Now at Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, College Park, Pennsylvania, USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. Now at Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, College Park, Pennsylvania, USA
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  • Kylin Cummings

    1. Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
    2. Department of Anthropology, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Anthropology, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA
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Corresponding author: R. P. Lowell, Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA. (rlowell@vt.edu)

Abstract

[1] We use one- and two-limb single-pass models to de termine vent field characteristics such as mass flow rate Q, bulk permeability in the discharge zone kd, thickness of the conductive boundary layer at the base of the system δ, magma replenishment rate, and residence time in the discharge zone. Data on vent temperature, vent field area, heat output, and the surface area and depth of the subaxial magma chamber (AMC) constrain the models. The results give Q ~ 100 kg/s, kd ~ 10−13 m2, and δ ~ 10 m, essentially independent of spreading rate, and detailed characteristics of the AMC. In addition, we find no correlation between heat output at individual vent fields and spreading rate or depth to the AMC. We conclude that high-temperature hydrothermal systems are driven by local magma supply rates in excess of that needed for steady state crustal production and that crustal permeability enables hydrothermal circulation to tap magmatic heat regardless of AMC depth. Using data on partitioning of heat flow between focused and diffuse flow, we find that 80–90% of the hydrothermal heat output is derived from high-temperature fluid, even though much of the heat output discharges as low-temperature fluid. In some cases, diffuse flow fluids may exhibit considerable conductive cooling or heating. By assuming conservative mixing of diffuse flow fluids at East Pacific Rise 9°50′N, we find that most transport of metals such as Fe and Mn occurs in diffuse flow and that CO2, H2, and CH4 are taken up by microbial activity.

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