The Galapagos Spreading Center at 86°W: A detailed geothermal field study


  • Kenneth E. Green,

  • Richard P. Von Herzen,

  • David L. Williams


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We report here measurements of the heat flow field of the Galapagos Spreading Center on crust of age less than 1.0 m.y. The 443 measurements in an area of about 570 km2 reveal the general planform of the geothermal flux and permit the first truly areal estimate of the near-axis conductive heat flux. The intrusion process and associated hydrothermal circulation dominate the surface heat flow pattern, with circulation apparently continuing beyond the limits of our survey. The areal average of the conductive heat flux is 7.1 ± 0.8 HFU (295 ± 33 mW/m2), about one-third the heat flux predicted by plate models. The remaining heat is apparently removed by venting of hydrothermal waters at the spreading axis and through basalt outcrops and hydrothermal mounds off axis. The pattern of surface heat flux is lineated parallel to the axis and the strongly lineated topography. Sharp lateral gradients in the heat flow, greater than 10 HFU/km near escarpments and commonly expressed as high heat flow at the tops of the scarps and lower heat flow in the valleys, may indicate a local concentration of the circulation by surface fault systems and/or variable sediment thickness.